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Tempting Fate by FadingAntigone
Chapter 1: An Adolescent Decision
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Evelyn and Elizabeth Castell sat side-by-side, matching dark circles swinging low under their eyes.
Their aunt was facing away from them, flicking her wand with stoic mindfulness. Books were moving from the shelf that she eyed, piling themselves neatly on her desk in two separate stacks.
“Will it hurt?” Evelyn repeated her question, waiting for her aunt to turn around. Minerva had always encouraged them to question, to be curious, and to be studious. But now—when they had finally found something that seemed to meet their needs—she could barely make eye contact with them. Since Evelyn had mentioned it over dinner two nights ago, her aunt had been quiet.
Elizabeth sat besides her sister, quietly studying her knuckles. Elizabeth only seemed to be interested in this option as a way to distance herself from them both. Evelyn had felt her sister pulling away from her for weeks; ever since they had moved into their aunt’s quarters at Hogwarts, Elizabeth had been quietly removing herself from daily moments. Evelyn wondered, in the moment that hung between her question and her aunt’s reply, whether she wanted to pursue this to soothe herself or to reconnect with her sister. They hadn’t been particularly close before, but now—now she felt like she needed her.
“I don’t know,” Minerva sounded hoarse, “You would have to ask Professor Dumbledore. He would be the one,” she paused, eyes following the book that was moving past her. She turned, her eyes following it to its resting place on the top of the pile. She still hadn’t made eye contact with her nieces. “Are you sure? Both of you, are you sure?” It was then that her eyes moved to them, shifting quickly between the two of them as if she feared that she might miss even the smallest of reactions that could prove her assumption that they didn’t want this, that they couldn’t want this.
But, Evelyn was too stubborn and too determined. She had already made up her mind. She didn’t want anything to do with it anymore. She wanted to be rid of the dreams, which had turned to nightmares, and the memories, which had turned to bogs. She could feel herself sinking into the muck, and her struggling with it only sunk her deeper.
“I can’t start a new life here and be expected to carry this with me.”
“Dear, that’s life!” Exasperation broke from her aunt, her eyes wide with earnestness. “You must carry these things with you, they are a part of your life now.”
Pain flashed across Evelyn’s face, but the determination reigned supreme. “What’s the point of being magical if I can’t do this?” Years later, a deep rose blush would spread across her cheeks when her aunt reminded her of this moment. It was true adolescent stubbornness. But, right then, Minerva said nothing. Evelyn continued, flushing next to her sister, “Why can’t you allow us to make this decision?”
“Us,” Minerva’s arms crossed across her chest, her gaze turning to Elizabeth. “Is there an us between the two of you now?”
Evelyn turned towards her twin sister, staring down her nose and pursing her lips. There was silence.
“We’ll have everything taken from us? From that night?” Elizabeth asked, softly. “And we’ll keep… what?”
“Good memories.” Evelyn snapped before her aunt could reply.
“Then I suppose we should.”
“It’s not easy to reverse. You may never be able to get it back, and it could dramatically alter your sense of self. Not to mention—“
“We’ve decided. This is the least you can do as our guardian,” Evelyn jumped in. Her tone was rude and scathing. Minerva balked slightly, trying to keep her composure. Athena had always written of Elizabeth as the moody, aggressive teenager who had harsh words and stubborn habits. It had been Elizabeth that she fought with, and Elizabeth that she had struggled with. “George Lucas may have been on to something, Minerva,” Athena had once written, “There is a dark side—as we both know—and I fear my Elizabeth is constantly battling it.” That line had always stayed with Minerva as she had had to search through a stack of Muggle newspapers that were kept on file at the library to find a reference to George Lucas.
Her mind continued the tangent momentarily, drudging up other popular culture references that Athena had shared, and had to explain, after her move to the United States.
“Do you know what my brain just did?” Minerva asked after a long pause, her tangent coming back to meet her nieces, sitting in front of her, asking for something she was morally opposed. “It brought up a memory of your mother, so simple but wonderful and dear to me.” Both girls looked up at her, their warm brown eyes dimming with separate, complex emotions. “You realize that if I do this for you, that process—that function of memory and remembering—will be compromised. You might not have moments like that anymore. And, if you do, they may not be authentic. They’ll be artificial, or orchestrated, by magic.”
“Either you do this for me now, or I attempt it—on my own—when school begins, and we’re able to practice magic without restrictions again.”
“Evelyn, don’t threaten me. It’s not like you.”
“None of this is like me! I’m not me—don’t you get that? I want to be me again.” Her voice cracked as her volume broke away from the deadpan she’d been using. “Plus, it will keep our secret safe.”
Minerva paused, knowing that this was the most persuasive piece of the argument. This was the piece that Albus had focused on. “These are troubling times, Minerva, and you cannot regulate where the girls will be sorted or who they may befriend. Not all of the students can be trusted, and it may be wise to concede this point… If only to keep them safe.”
Keeping them safe was her newest duty as their guardian, and it was something she was only just beginning to understand. Her work had always required a level of awareness and concern for her students, but her nieces were a different matter. Her heart felt heavy, and her bones felt old.
“Alright,” She breathed, uncrossing her arms and sinking back onto her heels. “I’ll get Professor Dumbledore.”
Author's Note: This story was originally published on Quizilla under my username there, Smidget016, and under the same title. Quizilla has since been taken down, and I have decided to revise and repost the story here. If you were a user on that site and came across my story there, I encourage you to reread as many changes will be made but the structure will be the same!
As you might guess, this story was written many, many moons ago... But I have fallen out of writing in recent years, and am trying to get back into the habit. I thought starting with the revising and reworking of a story that I had already completed may be helpful. So here I am, back again, with a new adapation of this old tale. I hope you enjoy. And please be forgiving if something seems wildly out of canon! I wrote this before the series was completed, before Pottermore was a thing, and, though I am attempting to keep close to canon, some things will not be changed and, thus, I've marked the story as AU.
Credits: Chapter image by my old friend SisterStrange.
Chapter 2: After
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A few weeks later, Evelyn woke in her aunt’s apartment. Minerva had quarters in the castle, tucked away behind a portrait of a man and his cat. The sisters shared a small guest room, and had been doing well in their sharing of space though they both were looking forward to being sorted when school began.
Evelyn raised her arms long over her head, rolling her shoulder blades down her back. Warm sunshine played across the bedroom, toasting her toes under the light blankets that covered the single bed she occupied. She observed the room quietly, noticing her sister’s absence and assuming her aunt’s as well.
She leaned across her bed, pulling a book from the nightstand that stood between her bed and Elizabeth’s. She had begun Harper Lee's To Kill a Mocking Bird, a novel that she had read more than once. She could still remember the first time her mother read it to her, the memory rosy in her mind. “Don’t be so quick to assume who may be right and who may be wrong,” her mother had chided when Evelyn tried to guess the ending.
She had entered chapter four when a soft knocking came at the door, which creaked open before she had a chance to invite the person in. It could only be her aunt, so the intrusion was welcome.
“Good morning, Evie,” Her aunt announced over the creaking, “I’m glad to see you’re awake. I have just finished preparing my courses for the next few weeks, and was thinking we might take advantage of the day.” She cast her eyes to the side, “Where has your sister gone?”
“I’m not sure,” Evelyn muttered dreamily, closing her book and pulling herself upright in bed. She smiled at her aunt, “She was gone when I woke up.”
“You seem upbeat today,” Minerva said, a doubtfulness lying underneath her words. “Is everything alright?”
“Of course, everything is perfect.” She sighed happily, freeing her legs from the blankets and swinging them onto the floorboards. The coolness of the boards spread across her feet, making her smile more.
Her aunt raised an eyebrow. There was something unpalatably sweet about Evelyn’s countenance. She had always been an engaging and sweet girl. But now—after—she was saccharine, too kind even for a good-natured niece on a sunny day. Minerva’s smile stretched at the corners of her mouth, tightening. “Well, why don’t we go onto the grounds in search of her? With weather like this, I imagine she isn’t in the castle.”
Evelyn nodded her assent, climbing onto her feet and moving towards her wardrobe. She emerged from the room a few moments after her aunt, wearing a dress. Her outrageously curly hair had been reined in with a clip. It perched high on her head in a messy bun-like shape.
Her aunt motioned towards a bowl of fruit nearby, but Evelyn wasn’t hungry.
They walked through the castle halls, moving down staircases, past classroom doors, winding their way towards the Great Hall, turning away from those doors and moving out of doors, onto the great green expanse surrounding the school. All the while, they said nothing. Evelyn hummed quietly to herself, and her aunt thought. There wasn’t anything she could bring herself to say; she feared, and she felt neglectful, and she wore those feelings like a shroud.
Both could remember times when the conversation never dropped between them. That was before.
They wandered in this silence for some time before seeing the shape of Elizabeth, sitting alone near the lake with her legs disappeared into the water. Their shadows draped across her form when they neared, but Elizabeth chose not to notice.
“Hello,” the first word between the two of them erupted from their mouths simultaneously, but their tone was very different. Evelyn’s came out in a happy hum while Minerva’s slid out flatly monosyllabic.
Elizabeth was an utter contrast of Evelyn. She seemed weighted with something, an unhappiness radiating from her. Her shoulders hung low, and her whole body curled like a C away from them. She seemed close to teetering into the lake, her long, straight blonde hair almost brushing the water’s surface.
“Are you feeling well, dear?”
“Not particularly,” Elizabeth muttered quietly, shifting her legs back and forth, sending ripples radiating outward. “I’m not sure what the matter is,” She sighed, volunteering, “Things feel disrupted.”
“Of course things are disrupted,” Evelyn moved to sit next to her sister, “We’re in a different country, and preparing to enter a different school! But doesn’t it feel excited? New?” She smiled, rubbing her shoulder against her sister’s. A small smile moved onto Elizabeth’s face, and she nodded.
There conversation continued, and Minerva observed, quietly seating herself against a nearby tree.
“They only seem balanced when they’re together,” Minerva sighed, sipping at the firewhiskey Albus had poured for her. He was leaning back in his chair near the fire in his office. His face gave nothing away, and he did not interject. She continued, “Otherwise, they seem to grow disparate. Evelyn is increasingly bubbly and kind while Elizabeth is increasingly sullen and distant. I worry that if they aren’t sorted into the same house, they won’t be able to function among the other students.
“And their classmates—there will be questions, which could compromise the integrity of the spell. The smallest of things could trigger the countercurse, and then…”
“Then their memories will return. Minerva—”
“How did I agree to this? How did I allow this to happen?”
“We explained the side effects and the potential outcomes. They were informed, they were persuasive, and they were desperate. You were trying to heal them, and this was the method that was agreed to by all parties. Your regret is understandable, given that this side effect has presented itself.
“Some peope who undergo the amnesia charm are fine, but this is the first time it’s been done on twins. It seems as though their memories and the sentiment attached to them have diverged and allotted themselves to each girl separately.”
“Their classmates will think they’re odd,” Minerva sighed, sipping again, “And anything may cause them to remember what has happened in the past few months. Their memories will crash down around them,” she looked down at her hands.
“And they risk losing their sanity.” Albus supplemented. “But Minerva, they agreed. They knew. They wanted to protect you, and themselves.”
“They may be protecting their secret, but they aren’t protecting themselves.”
A silence stretched between them, the shadows rising as the fire began to die down. It needed more wood, but neither of them raised their wand.
“Albus… How long do you believe they have?”
Credits: Chapter image by me.
Chapter 3: On Sisters
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By the time the school year was upon them, Evelyn and Elizabeth knew the castle completely. Their aunt was pleased that they would be able to navigate to their classes, noting that it would be easier for them to “blend in” when the students arrived.
Evelyn hadn’t noticed the evolution of her happiness, and the way it seemed to grow as her sister continued to fold in on herself. Most evenings, when Evelyn climbed into bed, her cheeks hurt from smiling. She would drift off into rosy dreams; they were often memories of baking with her mother or chasing Elizabeth through the woods that sat behind their Maryland home. Each night, the memories were older and rosier.
Elizabeth, in contrast, tossed throughout the night, and each morning woke up discombobulated. Her dreams were the same as Evelyn’s, but cast in shadows.
These nighttime memories hung about them through the day, creating auras. Their aunt had noticed that often the girls seemed disconnected, their eyes glazed over. They only seemed to pretend to listen, engaging in hesitant and confusing ways. Dumbledore was surprised at how quickly their condition was advancing, but he reassured Minerva that at this rate, the countercurse might announce itself within a few weeks. “In this case, it may be hoped that the spell hasn’t been in effect long enough for the countercurse to cause real damage.”
She wasn’t sure what to hope for. She had written her sister, Demeter—her only sister now—and was waiting to hear back. She assumed there would be fury, confusion, and perhaps even contempt. In her letter, she had included Dumbledore’s reflection that the other students’ arrival may balance out the emotional disparities.
The girls sat across from Albus Dumbledore, the headmaster they had only interacted with a handful of times. They both felt the familiarity of Professor Dumbledore, but neither could remember the moment they first met. Evelyn smiled at him despite that inability.
“We felt that it would be wise to sort you before the other students arrive tomorrow. This will allow you to join your houses for dinner with the other students your age, and it won’t draw attention to your transfer.” Dumbledore looked over his spectacles at the girls, “I do not feel that I need to remind you of the importance of discretion and anonymity this school year.”
The girls nodded, vaguely aware of his meaning. It was as if their guts—or perhaps their souls—knew where Dumbledore had come from and what he was talking of, but their minds couldn’t connect the dots.
“We sort alphabetically. Come to the stool, Elizabeth.”
Elizabeth moved slowly, as if her bones ached. She lowered herself on to the stool with trepidation. The hat disappeared over her eyes, and the voice sprung up in her head seamlessly alongside her own thoughts.
It’s particularly dark in your mind, Elizabeth. Do you always keep such company?
Elizabeth wrinkled her nose, thinking her reply, I don’t think so, hat. It’s hard to tell though; it’s felt this way for some time. What does it tell you?
This? Tells me nothing. The hat was a little too delighted in it’s response. I can see past this artifice.
Artifice? What do you—?
Before Elizabeth could force the hat to explain, it announced Slytherian in a boom. The first thing Elizabeth saw when the hat came off her head was the look in her Aunt Minerva’s eyes. There in that familiar gaze mingled surprise and disappointment. It was something Elizabeth had never experienced from her aunt before, her mother and her father, yes, but never her aunt. An icy feeling spread across her chest, and Elizabeth knew in a moment of clarity that something was amiss.
She vacated the stool, returning to her chair and looking briefly at Dumbledore. The man smiled knowingly, never blinking.
Evelyn moved onto the stool, smiling as the hat was lowered on to her head.
So much like your sister, the voice erupted in her.
No one has ever said that before, Evelyn replied. Even in her mind, her tone was chipper.
You’ll recognize the similarities when the time comes, but the darkness here in your mind isn’t the same that is in your sister’s. It’s a grief, a—
Could you sort me? Evelyn interjected, a feeling in her stomach like a stone dropped into a bucket. I need a place.
Yes, you desire a place in a movement, space to lead but also space to grow and collaborate. You’ll be helpful in—
Gryffindor was said, and no one was surprised.
Later, Evelyn and Elizabeth lay in their beds in Minerva’s spare room. It was the last time they would share the room until December at least. They tempered each other, and the happiness that was constantly oozing from Evelyn seemed offset for a moment. They both felt balanced in that space, quietly thinking through the sorting they had just experienced. Evelyn wasn’t surprised that they had been placed in such different houses, but she wasn’t sure if she needed to feel anything beyond that.
“Elizabeth?” She turned on her side, looking into the dusky darkness that was filling the room. The late summer sun clung to the horizon, but with every slipping ray the day drew closer to its end.
“Do you think it’s a big deal? That we were placed in separate houses?”
“I can’t tell yet… Based on what Aunt Minerva said, it seems like there may be some animosity between the two houses. But,” A moment of silence sat between them. “It wouldn’t be too different than home.”
Evelyn wrinkled her nose, her brain struggling to compute the statement. In the dark, her vision seemed to flicker momentarily and a cracking pain radiated from her temple. She groaned slightly, and Elizabeth looked at her. She must have felt the same pain, but before she could articulate anything, Evelyn interjected, “There must be a storm moving in. I think I may be getting a migraine.”
Elizabeth’s mouth snapped shut, and Evelyn noticed. But she chose not to.
“I think we’ll be fine. We can stay close if we choose to—and we can choose to. We will have classes together, we can study together, attend events or meals together.” Evelyn could hear rather than see her sister nodding assent, her hair rustling against the pillow. They shifted the conversation, talking until the room was black and they began to drift off between sentences.
Evelyn believed herself. Even in the morning, she continued to feel that her sister could be her confidant and her friend in a way that she felt, perhaps, she hadn’t been before. There was something deep inside of her gut that seemed to signal that she needed Elizabeth, more than she had before. When she tried to connect this part of her gut to her mind, there was murkiness. The rosy glow of her memories became shadowy, like a dark fog rolled across her mindscape. It was an achingly clear visual.
The idea of this space in her mind that was the border between sun and shadow hung with her throughout the day. Even as she moved into her new dorm room, learned the names of her roommates—Hermione, Lavender, Padma, Parvati—and put on her robes, a red and gold patch emblazon on the breast, the image was there, lurking just between the thoughts that occupied and distracted her.
Later that evening, Evelyn and Elizabeth found themselves seated in the Great Hall alone. They looked at each other across the expanse, and there was a foreboding blossoming inside of Evelyn that she could not fight.
But then, quite suddenly, the other students arrived and a warm, rosy gladness centered itself in her mind and she felt only excitement.
Luckily, no one seemed to notice that she was already seated at the table. Students in robes that matched hers began to fill the benches around her. Many were engaged in conversation, and didn’t seem to notice an abnormally early student at the table. Bodies moved in around her, and all of a sudden she seemed to be in the midst of a community. The hum of people her age, reconnecting with one another after months of separation, filled her ears. All of the bodies occupying this space raised the temperature of the room; it was suddenly cozier. She felt that this was how the castle was always supposed to be. All summer, the hallways and rooms had been waiting for students. It felt different now.
She smiled, keeping to herself. She could remember a time when she was the center of a conversation, her friends wrapped around her, listening intently and sharing. The memory made her smile; she didn’t seem to remember the break that had severed her friends from her or the fact that she now sat on a bench, alone, on another continent.
In fact, there was one person who noticed the way her face had moved from foreboding dread to excitement to seeming euphoria. The unnatural contortions of her niece’s face were hard to draw Minerva’s eyes from. When she did look away, it was only to look at Elizabeth, whose face mirrored those sublime shifts—only in different tones of depression, skeptism, and general dissatisfaction.
Author's Note: Hope you are all enjoying this as it progresses. It moves a little differently than the original version, and to be honest I'm not sure exactly what I want the pace to be yet. As I've been writing, I've been thinking about what I want to incorporate now the JKR has completed the series, and what I might leave in it's original form from my first run with it. If you have feelings one way or another, I'd love to hear them! In fact any feedback would be greatly appreciated as I am trying to think more on character development and time. Reviews are always, always welcome!
Credits: Chapter image by me.
Chapter 4: Observers and Observations
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“What do you think of the new girl?”
“Girls,” Hermione corrected, taking a small bite from some toast that she had just finished jamming. She carefully leaned the knife against the furthest side of her plate, moving with steady intention.
“What?” Ron said, distracted by her small, purposeful movements. Ever since the trio had reunited over the summer, Harry had noticed that Hermione’s movements more often than not distracted Ron. He could sense the shift that had come, perhaps during their months of separation, but Ron had not mentioned anything to him. Perhaps if it had been a different year, Harry may have inquired or teased. Not this year, this year was different.
“Girls, Ron,” Hermione looked up at him momentarily, “There are two of them.” She took another bite, and a pause lingered between them, Ron still looking at her but not picking up the threads of the conversation. Harry minded his eggs, waiting for Hermione to continue. She did, “The Castell sisters, Evelyn is in our house and her sister is not. I’m sure you’ve noticed Elizabeth in our classes with the Slytherians.”
“Well, yes, of course,” Ron finally, “I did notice that there was more than one of them. I would just rather not discuss the Slytherians if I can help it.” He huffed a little at the end, breathing in deeply before shoving a spoon full of eggs into his mouth.
“Well, Elizabeth does seem fine so far. She may not be wholly lumped in with the other lot just yet.” Hermione reasoned, crinkling her nose a little as Ron tried to start a sentence before swallowing. She promptly cut him off, “Evelyn seems sweet as well. She seems to be quite happy to be here, though to be honest I haven’t seen much of her. She’s always the first one up in the morning and the last to bed.” Her sentence trailed off, as she seemed to be working through something in her head. She didn’t pick it up again, leaving her unfinished thought hanging between them.
Harry nodded, looking from Hermione to Ron. He had never heard of transfers coming to Hogwarts before and had tried to ask Professor Dumbledore why new sixth year girls had suddenly appeared at the school during what seemed to be a most importune time, but the Headmaster had not conceded any information that hadn’t already circled through the Common Room and the rest of the school. They were Professor McGonagall’s nieces, and there had been special exceptions made for them to join the school. They had transferred from an American magical academy whose name was largely unrecognizable. Perhaps, most importantly, Dumbledore added that the girls had been vetted by the Order before being offered enrollment.
“Dumbledore seems to trust them, the Order as well.” Harry sighed, unsure if that was enough to make him feel comfortable anymore. He wouldn’t allow himself to be in a position of gullibility, no matter the situation, after what had happened to Sirius. “But there seems to be something amiss. When I introduced myself to Evelyn the other day, she had the strangest look about her.”
“And she’s unbearably happy. Hermione didn’t modify that bit of her description quite as aggressively as she should have.” Ron rolled his eyes a little, “She thanked a bloody first year the other day after they knocked pumpkin juice all over her bag.”
“She did not,” Hermione’s rationed tone cut in, “Who would do that?”
“She did! I swear it,” Ron chuckled a little, “She seems a little tossed if you ask me.”
Harry studied Ron, shrugging his shoulders and running his hand through his hair. His eyes drifted back to Hermione, who looked into her teacup with a quiet about her that was countered only by the flashing behind her eyes. He could tell her mind was moving quickly, trying to piece something together. She had had the same look about her when they were in second year, close to discovering the Chamber of Secrets. He knew that if he asked her what she was thinking, she wouldn’t tell him. And, to be honest, he wasn’t looking to continue the conversation at that moment.
Though the mysterious air surrounding the transfer students had interested him, he couldn’t allow himself to get distracted. He needed to focus on preparing for battle; it was the only thing he had left now, and he intended to survive.
Evelyn and Elizabeth Castell moved to and from their classes with a similar aura of unaffected calm, though one carried happiness with her while the other carried depression. They were admittedly most balanced when they were together, their moods setting into one another like ying yang. For this reason, they seemed pulled towards one another, often sharing tables in their classes. It was an unspoken pull, which neither girl wanted to acknowledge because it seemed to speak to something larger than they could understand.
The effects of each other’s company would last for a few hours after they had separated, but by the time they had woken in their respective dorms, there was pallor over one and brightness over the other. Minerva noticed this immediately, and brought it to Dumbledore’s attention. Albus had just nodded ever so slightly as she had described the condition, conceding that it was indeed worsening. The other students did not seem to have much of an impact on them as he had hoped. He had asked her to allow him some time to think over what may be the best course of action, and she had agreed.
In the meantime, she had heard from Demeter, who was indeed furious. She had written to ask if she could come see the girls, but Minerva felt that her showing up at the school may cause a lot of disruption and may draw attention to them as well. They had come to the agreement that she would visit at the first Hogsmeade trip of the year, as that would be the least conspicuous time.
Her letter had ended with a sentence that seemed to run on forever: “I still cannot come to terms with the idea that you have done this to our nieces, and it seems that I may not be able to until I see them for myself—though given your description of their behavior, I wonder if I will even recognize them, let alone them me—it’s unnerving to write this sentence and the whole time wonder what may be ahead for them, and how this may affect their course particularly considering all that has transpired in just a short span of time, all of which I’m sure they’ve yet to fully process and which was so rudely taken from them by adults who conceded too easily (and by adults, I mean both you and Albus, who I am also furious with and who I expected more from; though I understand his motivation in keeping them safe, particularly given the current atmosphere, I cannot imagine that effectively disarming them by removing their memories has improved their safety; I just wish I had been consulted beforehand, and—to be completely honest, Minnie, I’m upset I didn’t hear from at least one of the girls, Evelyn in particular).
It was an impressive feat to have carried on like that, and Minerva felt deeply how upset Demeter must have been. Her sister had been writing for The Daily Prophet for nearly twelve years, and she took very seriously all aspects of the written language. Her grammar was typically impeccable and she only seemed to stray from it when truly frazzled. She hadn’t even edited the letter before attaching it to her owl, it seemed, as the letter arrived without marks (another testament to her quickness, as Demeter almost always gave her letters a second read and marked changes or added bits for clarification).
Fragments of her sister’s letter would play through her head as she watched the girls in these strange states move through the student body at meal time, which was when she had the best opportunity to observe them. Meals had always been reserved for quiet observation. Minerva had often strayed from conversations with her colleagues to look out into the student body and get a sense of whom they were. It improved her teaching; it cleared her mind. But this year, so far, she could only look at her nieces and feel a deep sense of disappointment. They had convinced her that this what they wanted, and she knew—too late—that they were wrong.
Evelyn discovered that she was often alone as she moved from class to class, but this didn’t seem to bother her. She smiled down at the stones as her feet moved over them, feeling a sense of satisfaction that she learned the castle so well before the semester had started. It made so many things easier.
She made it to Potions a little earlier than she had expected, and settled her books next to the cauldron she had been assigned. The room was darker than the hallway had been, and her eyes took a moment to adjust.
“Hey,” someone muttered close by. She hadn’t noticed anyone else in the classroom. She turned to her left and discovered Harry Potter, a fellow housemate that she had only interacted with briefly in the last week or so of classes. He seemed generally aloof and was often with Hermione Granger and Ron Weasley, both of whom seemed equally nice. Hermione slept in the bed beside hers, and had offered to help her with any classes that seemed wildly out of line with the studies Evelyn had left behind in the states. In fact, Hermione had offered again only last night and Evelyn was starting to think it maybe a good idea to take her up on the offer.
All of these thoughts raced through her mind in the moment in between his salutation and hers. “How’re you today, Harry?”
“Alright,” he grumbled a little, not yet setting his books down. He eyed her tentatively. They had not been assigned to the same table, but he knew that if he switched to be beside her, Slughorn wouldn’t mind. The new professor was so enamored with him, he felt as though he could request even the largest of favors and it would be granted. He placed his tattered copy of the text beside hers. He wasn’t quite sure why he felt compelled to move his place; he had been placed next to Ron previously, but he assumed that Ron wouldn’t mind sharing with Hermione, who could move into Harry’s spot and away from Lavender Brown. “How are you?”
“Very well, I think,” she replied softly. The minutes seemed to be moving slowly past them.
“Yes,” she trailed off, a strangeness lingering over her features and in her tone. She turned to Harry, studying him slowly. Her brown eyes seemed to be searching for something. For the first time in his knowing her, the smile on her face faltered. “I feel as though there is something I was meant to tell you,” She said softly. Her voice seemed a little dreamy, far off even. He was reminded of Luna, except that her tone was different.
“Did Hermione ask you to tell me something?” Harry assumed that could have been the only person who would have given her any information bound for him, though it didn’t quite make sense as he had almost every class with her and she wouldn’t have needed to send a message with Evelyn—not to mention the fact that the two girls barely knew one another.
“No, it wasn’t Hermione. No, he told me—” Evelyn inhaled sharply and suddenly, her sentence ending. Her hand shot to her side, and her face screwed up.
And then just as suddenly as it had arrived it all passed. Other students began to file into the classroom, and the whole air of the room changed. Neither had noticed how heavy the space had felt before it changed; with the newly arrived students seemed to come more oxygen. Harry continued to study Evelyn as her body transformed back into its more upright posture and delightful countenance, the familiar smile sweeping across her face. He had hoped she might finish her thought, to give him a sense of who the he she was referring to was—particularly because he knew many he’s who weren’t to be trusted.
Evelyn didn’t continue the conversation, however she could feel Harry studying her throughout the rest of the class. She didn’t mind him looking at her; in fact, her mind moved back and forth between a feeling of self-consciousness and a feeling of self-confidence. She wondered what he thought of her, and what he was thinking since the conversation between them had ended. But she didn’t think on the conversation, she couldn’t. It was as though a small piece of the memory had wedged itself back into her mind, and, like a sturdy defense mechanism, her mind had swept it away when the pain began. The thought left her completely, and the conversation felt surreal.
Instead of remembering, she just smiled to herself, listening to Professor Slughorn ramble through a lecture and following his instructions with a blind smile. Eventually, she forgot that Harry was observing her, thoughtfully and diligently as they moved about the room and completed their assignment.
But Harry didn’t forget. He barely looked away.
He stared at her from across the common room, studying the side of her face, the length of her neck. Her head seemed to move as a bird’s, changing angles ever so suddenly as she stared into the fire. Her feet were tucked beneath her and her arms were folded across her chest. The bag she carried between classes sat at the foot of the couch, untouched. She had been sitting there for quiet some time.
They were the last two in the room. Everyone else had gone to bed, and in the firelight he could tell she was tired. There was tightness around her eyes and her mouth. She seemed somewhat disconnected, somewhat sad.
He wasn’t sure why he felt compelled to study her. She was beautiful, but no more beautiful than the other girls in the house. He continued to look at her despite himself, and continued to wonder about her. Since her arrival, she had had few conversations with her housemates or her classmates. Even when she was with her sister, she did not seem to talk much. In fact, he would have bet she didn’t want to converse with anyone. Instead, she seemed to move around them, orbiting them all, like a planet circling a distant star.
He knew nothing about her, which surprisingly angered him.
Elizabeth still hadn’t moved by the time he withdrew his eyes long enough to finish his essay and pack away his belongings. He had no reason to linger there any longer, but nevertheless he waited to see if she might move; he had no reason to observe her any long, but nevertheless he waited to see if she might reveal something—an emotion, a thought.
“Good night, Elizabeth,” he called across the room.
She seemed startled, looking at him only briefly before turning her eyes back to the fire. “Good night, Draco,” her voice spread thin across the room, soft.
Chapter 5: Minerva and Demeter
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September passed quickly, and the Castell sisters seemed to move through their days and weeks without noticing their observers. They made acquaintances, but no real friends. They studied, but didn’t seem to learn. They floated through their daily experiences without any tangible ties to earth, feeling only extreme emotions while sleeping little and eating almost nothing. By the time the first Hogsmeade trip arrived, the girls were hollow-eyed.
Demeter noticed the girls immediately when she arrived to the Great Hall with Minerva. Sitting on opposite sides of the room, they seemed to share an energy that drew Demeter’s attention immediately. They seemed to represent maniac depression more sincerely than individuals Demeter knew to actually suffer from the chemical imbalance.
Minerva gestured to the table at the head of the hall, and Demeter tore her eyes from the girls. She had arrived only a moment ago through floo, and had to dust herself off before she took a seat amongst the other professors. Demeter was in her early thirties, only a few inches shorter than her sister with the same sharp eyes. Her hair fell freely down the length of her back, her travel cloak covered in stray hairs that had been shed over the many months in which she had traveled across the country, tracking the rising disappearances of Muggles. Her fingers were habitually smudged with ink, which she never seemed able to get off, and the bag she set down next to her chair was cluttered with quills, parchment scraps, Muggle pens, and a few recording devices. It was her habit to move between her reporting and her life fluidly so that she rarely had to choose between work and leisure. Her talked quickly and often, and her boss liked to catch up with her because she always seemed to be a beat ahead in her thinking and talking.
When she arrived, Minerva busied her with conversation about her story and hassled her about her safety, taking on the mothering role that she had occupied since their own mother had died fifteen years ago. Their mother had long outlived their father, but as the youngest of three girls Demeter was too young to be left alone. She had not yet entered Hogwarts at the time, and had moved into Minerva’s apartments as Athena was only recently married and living in London. It hadn’t seemed practical for her to there, particularly since Athena and Ian had only just had Evelyn and Elizabeth.
Minerva didn’t always feel secure about the projects Demeter took on, but had been forced to accept it as Demeter again and again took on the most dangerous and far-flung assignments that seemed to be offered her. Her work was often a point of debate at family meals and other gatherings, and her nieces had often been incredibly curious about her work, especially since the communities and methods of British wizards and witches were seemingly radically different than those on the other side of the pond.
Today, however, the girls didn’t even seem to notice the arrival of their other aunt—let along much else. They seemed to be missing something; there simply wasn’t any other way to summarize the differences she was seeing in her nieces. She could tell, even from this distance, that there had been something extinguished in them. She would have anticipated such a change regardless of what had happened, given what they’d been through, but this seemed worse.
“We must talk,” she hissed to her sister. Minerva nodded looking at her out of the side of her eye.
“As soon as the other students depart.”
“They’re not going?”
“I haven’t signed their releases,” Minerva sighed, “I don’t think they’re safe among the other students. It’s impossible to tell…”
“What might set them off,” Demeter interjected. Minerva didn’t make any sound, but she could tell by the way her sister’s jaw tightened that she was right.
Almost an hour later, the two sisters sat in Minerva’s living room, chairs pulled close to the fire and cups of tea steaming in their hands. They had busied themselves with brief conversations with Minerva’s colleagues before coming here to make tea. It was only now that they sat looking at one another that they realized they would actually have to have the conversation.
Demeter sighed, looking at her sister through the steam that rose from her cup. It was too hot to drink, but she brought it to her lips and blew softly over it in a futile attempt to cool it down. She was bad at drinking tea; she would immediately burn herself by trying to drink it too quickly and then wait too long to let it cool and it would be cold. She could never find the right moment to drink it. She could remember Evelyn sympathizing with her. As a mostly-American, having spent the last ten years of her life stateside, she had no idea how to drink tea. The two had laughed about the awkwardness of the pseudo-ceremony, especially as Evelyn really only had to engage in tea drinking when they would visit their father or their aunts. Though they came at least once a year, she still hadn’t mastered the process. Demeter sighed again as she remembered the way Evelyn’s face has lit up when she realized they shared this struggle. Her face hadn’t moved with that kind of animation the whole time she observed her. In fact, Demeter still wasn’t sure the girls had even noticed her presence.
“The girls seem completely unattached to reality.” Demeter said, blunt as ever.
Minerva looked a little nervous under the gaze of her sister. Demeter could feel the guilt moving off of her. “I know,” she admitted softly, “Even Albus was surprised at how quickly the side effects presented themselves. He didn’t think—“
“It’s obvious to me that neither of you thought.” Demeter interjected. She immediately regretted the statement when her sister’s eyes surged with guilt. Her mouth snapped shut, and Demeter continued, “I’m sorry, Minnie. I really am. I didn’t mean to judge so hastily. I know you were trying to pacify them, but I still cannot believe this was where you settled. There is so little known about the long-term impact of the amnesia charm, and its reversal has in many cases led to insanity. Just last year a witch died at Mungo’s because the onslaught of memories was too burdensome for her; they said her heart simply failed.”
“I thought I was supposed to be the one with facts and logic,” Minerva looked deflated, looking older than she was.
“I did some research after your initial letter.” Demeter shrugged, noticing the tension in her shoulders. “If I was going to be outraged, I wanted to be rightfully so.”
Minerva smiled softly, looking into her teacup to avoid her sister’s gaze. “You have every right to be angry; I shouldn’t have allowed them to act this way. I was rash.” She paused a moment before adding, “They were so angry and sad. I tried to explain to them that these emotions were simply something they had to live with, but they were equally concerned with concealing the prophecy.”
Demeter nodded, “That’s the actual sticking point, isn’t it? That’s the argument that won out. I’m sure they hadn’t even thought of that until one of them blurted it out and they both just ran with it.” Keeping the prophecy secret was the best argument for erasing their short-term memories. It would prevent anyone from torturing it out of them, as they simply couldn’t bring themselves to remember the prophecy without severe pain.
There was little known about the amnesia charm other than that it was a variation of the oblivate charm. Instead of entirely erasing the memory, however, it tucked it deeply into the subconscious hiding it from the person. Like amnesia, these memories could be brought back through various triggers—in fact, most witches and wizards who had suffered from the charm had been told to go back to their last memory and try to move through their lives the way they had before, to act normal. These everyday habitual tasks could jog the memory, slowly eroding the effects of the charm. However, with the return of the memories, there was great physical pain. It was the side effect that was most recognizable of the charm, and the one that everyone who suffered from the charm seemed to have. The other side effects varied. Some people were completely themselves whereas others were completely different. Some became more extreme versions of themselves; for example, there had been a woman in one case study that Demeter read that had been a very private person prior to the charm and a very outgoing person afterwards. Some were angrier, rasher, even disturbed. As side effects went, the girls actually seemed to have ones that weren’t too horrible—though it was obvious that they weren’t eating or sleeping much. This concerned Demeter, but the emotional effects wouldn’t have been so terrible if they weren’t students. If they were simply living in the world, the change to their behavior may not have been noticed at all. But here, at school, among their peers—it would be impossible for them to make friends, to fit in, or to even move through a crowd without people noticing them. The other students seemed confused by their behavior, and Demeter wasn’t surprised. If she had been a student right then, she would have thought these new transfer girls were weird. With the rise of Voldemort, she would have perhaps thought them suspicious.
“This won’t end well, will it?”
Minerva shook her head, “I think we have to jog their memories.”
The tea sloshed around Demeter’s cup as her hand moved too quickly, bring the cup from her mouth. “What?”
“I’ve spoken with Albus about it. He seems to think that the charm hasn’t been placed long enough for them to be in any real danger. And,” she looked at Demeter, “I think they are in more danger if they keep moving through the school in this way. They need to make friends and blend in. We can figure out another way to keep them safe. We don’t even know if the prophecy is important enough, the references haven’t even been verified yet!”
“After the attacks, I didn’t think we needed to verify it! I would think that if Athena were here, she would agree!”
Minerva was a bit taken aback, but she shook her head. “You’re right, but I’m right too. They must remember. They must come to terms with the ways in which their lives have changed, and they must see how they fit into this new world. It’s not about survival in the short-term. It’s about survival in the long-term.”
“And triggering their memories is the only way?”
“Yes, there is no other way to bring them back.”
“And you think they will survive it?”
Minerva nodded, her lips pursing in stoic determination. During her time at Hogwarts, Demeter had always been one for mischief. She had worked many pranks alongside Nymphadora Tonks. But she had never anticipated doing something like this—akin to a prank but not quite—with Minerva. (Athena perhaps, but never Minerva.) She looked at her sister, sipping her tea that was decidedly cold before saying, “What’s the plan then?”
Chapter 6: Dueling Stances
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“Today, we will be practicing dueling. You will use the defensive spells we have recently learned, and attempt to demonstrate mastery,” Snape paused, looking at the Gryffindor and Slytherian students, his eyes briefly settling on Harry Potter before adding, “Or at the very least proficiency.”
Evelyn smiled as she looked around the room. Students were slowly pairing off, mostly Gryffindors with Gryffindors and Slytherians with Slytherians. She moved towards her sister, who had seemingly assumed they would defy the norm and pair for the dueling exercise. Evelyn had always enjoyed her combat training at the Academy.
“Partners?” She said to her sister, despite the fact that it seemed as though everyone else had been paired.
“Of course,” Elizabeth paused, looking at the other students as they moved apart and took formal dueling stances, “I’m not sure we’d work well with other students in this area anyway.”
Evelyn followed her gaze, watching as Harry Potter and Ron Weasley began to volley back and forth, interested and practical but not intense. She could feel her eyebrow quirk up, and she nodded, “Yes, this feels a little different than what we may be used to.”
“Should we follow their lead?”
They exchanged an identical smirk—no, of course not, they seemed to say to one another. Evelyn and Elizabeth turned their backs to one another and drew their wands.
“Count us off?” Elizabeth asked, her voice a little muffled by the other students’ castings.
Evelyn counted out the numbers evenly as she had done so many times before. She smiled at the familiarity, excited by the prospect of three. When the number rolled off her tongue, her body acted instinctually. She felt herself move quickly from Elizabeth, casting a disarming spell simultaneously with her turn.
“You always go right!” Her sister jeered. Evelyn’s spell had missed her entirely as she had moved left to avoid it. She immediately cast one of the defensive spells that they had been studying, but Evelyn deflected it, still smiling. Their wands began to move more quickly, and Evelyn could feel herself really getting into the movement. She had missed her combat course; it had been a daily exercise at the Academy, and she hadn’t quite realized it was gone until this moment.
As their pace quickened, she began to move about more, side stepping her classmates who were working alongside her as she attempted to find new angles that provided her an advantage over Elizabeth. Her sister had always been a confident dueler; even in their first years at the Academy, she had always been poised. She moved her wand like an overstylized artist moving a paintbrush, making short sweeping motions with outstretched arms. She didn’t spend a lot of energy jumping or ducking; instead, she seemed to have mastered intuition. Evelyn had envied her sister’s ability to seemingly predict her opponents’ next move.
Evelyn on the other hand liked to move. When they had first started studying, she had resisted the impulse—especially because Elizabeth was contrastedly poised—but over the years her professors had encouraged her to follow her body, and she had become increasingly comfortable on her feet. It was an athletic endeavor in her opinion, and it came naturally to her. She enjoyed the adrenaline rush.
She smiled as she took a few quick steps away from Elizabeth, who crinkled her nose a little as she tried to read her sister’s movements. Evelyn sent one of the newly learned defensive spells towards Elizabeth, but she deflected it with an artistic swipe. They smiled at one another, raising their wands in unison. They looked like mirror images of one another as they continued to cast quickly.
They both paused, trying to decide who would make the offensive move and who would make the defensive move. It was a breath in battle—Evelyn smiled, remembering her professor last year urging them to be comfortable with pace. “It won’t always be urgent, urgent, urgent! There will be slow moments, moments that are awkward. Use them to your advantage!” This was one such moment, and Evelyn continued to smile as she took the first move. She propelled her body forward, faking to the right to draw Elizabeth’s spell before throwing herself towards her sister and thrusting her wand into Elizabeth’s chest. Her smile widened as Elizabeth raised her arms, eyeing her with a humorous frustration.
They hadn’t partnered together to practice dueling in the last year or two at the Academy, though they often had class together. Evelyn wondered to herself why that might have been, as she studied her sister’s face. There was something there that she didn’t understand, but on the surface remained the light frustration and a small smile. Both of their chests were heaving as Evelyn withdrew her wand. They shook hands, as they had always been instructed to do at the Academy.
It was only after they had released each other’s hands that they realized the classroom was still—they had had an audience.
“How did you learn to duel like that?”
Evelyn had only taken a few steps down the hall before she had been overtaken by Harry, who blurted out his question with such eagerness that she was a little taken aback.
“At school, of course.”
“Your school? In America?”
Her brow wrinkled slightly, but she nodded and smiled, “Yes—the Academy.” She adjusted her books in her arms, noticing that Harry had matched his pace with hers. They each had Herbology next, so they continued down the stairs and towards the entrance hall. “Its in Washington D.C.”
“I’ve never heard of it before.”
“You wouldn’t have. It’s not talked of the way Ilvermorny is because it’s not accessible to many students. Typically, the students who go there, their parents worked for the government or were ambassadors. Most of the students’ parents work for the Wizarding branchs of the government—but some were also important Muggles who worked for Congress or the NSC, it just depended.”
“So your parents must have worked for the government then?”
A blaze flashed behind Evelyn’s eyes, which didn’t go unnoticed by Harry. She paused a moment, the happy bounce of her former replies lost. “Yes,” she looked at the books in her hands, “My mother was a British Ambassador working with US Wizards to promote peaceful relations.”
Harry was impressed, and looked so. “That sounds like interesting work—and explains why you grew up over there. I’d been wondering.” He admitted somewhat sheepishly. “What about your father?” He was being candid, and looked into her face earnestly as he followed her onto the grounds.
“He was an auror, here, actually.” She looked back into Harry’s face, matching his earnestness. He could tell that she had anticipated his confusion. “My parents were divorced.”
She could tell that Harry felt a little awkward, but she smiled warmly. It seemed like the first genuine smile that had crossed her face since he had known her—though she had smiled often when dueling her sister, and that had been genuine enthusiasm, but this was somehow different. “It’s okay,” She continued, “They had been separated for so long it was practically normal. I don’t even remember a time when my father lived with us.”
From the look on Harry’s face, she could tell there was something akin to empathy there. It felt like an odd moment to her—to share empathy, to pass that feeling back and forth. She hadn’t realized until that moment that this had been missing from her interactions… If she could call them interactions, she thought to herself. It dawned on her, quite suddenly, that she hadn’t really had a conversation with anyone since school had begun.
Despite the revealing look on his face, Harry didn’t know quite how to respond. He eventually settled on, “I can understand that.”
She nodded, knowing as so many did his story, and chosing to turn the conversation slightly. She wanted to move back to the original topic, “I’ve been practicing dueling since I started at the Academy when I was ten. We had daily combat classes where we studied different methods, cultures, and applications. I liked it,” She paused, smiling that genuine smile again. It looked nice on her face, Harry thought to himself. “I miss it. It was very different than Snape’s approach.”
Harry smiled then, too, looking at her, “I’m not sure I can offer unbiased comments on Snape’s approach.”
It was then that they arrived at the greenhouse. At some point, Hermione and Ron must have passed them as they were already waiting inside, throwing expectant looks out at Harry. Professor Sprout was at the front of the class, readying a few last pieces of equipment for the day’s lesson. She looked as though she was about to begin any moment.
“Evelyn?” He looked at her as they approach the door, knowing they would move apart from one another to their assigned stations in the greenhouse. She looked at him, her face still open and earnest. She looked so different at that moment. “If you have the time, do you think, you might practice dueling with me?”
“How did you learn to duel like that?”
“At school, obviously,” Elizabeth exhaled her words with a hint of irritation. Where else could she have possible learned to duel? Bible camp? She kept the sarcasm to herself, looking at Draco Malfoy out of the corner of her eye. His long legs shortened their steps to make pace with her as they moved back towards the common room for their free period.
“Yes, but,” He seemed almost flustered, which felt unusual. She didn’t know him very well, but she could tell that flustered wasn’t an emotion that came to him frequently. His pale throat flushed a little. “You’re technique seems much more advanced. Perhaps more advanced than some of the seventh years here.”
“Was that a compliment?” She finally turned her head slightly to look at him. The conversation paused as he gave the password, and they entered the common room. There were a few students about, but there was plent of space on the sofa near the fireplace, where Elizabeth habitually resided. She moved there now, and he continued to follow her despite the lack of invitation.
“How long have you been developing your technique?”
“Why are you so curious?”
He eyed the room for a moment, seating himself next to her and leaning in, “I’m not the only one who will be curious.”
He leaned back, placing his arm along the back of the couch and relaxing into the cushions. His face suggested everything she needed to know. She eyes him, her own curiousity bubbling up inside of her.
“I thought, perhaps, those were just rumors.”
“Well, you can’t believe everything you hear,” His mouth quirked up along the sides, instantly looking more confident. She looked him fully in the face for perhaps the first time. His features were angular, but not unappealing. His eyes were cold, but alive with intellect and arrogance. His hair was pushed back, away from his face, smooth and almost white. He was so unusual looking that it was almost appealing. “But you can believe some of it.”
Elizabeth cocked her head to the side a little. She always wore a poker face, and she knew he would never know what she was thinking. She had honed that—alongside her dueling skills—since she had entered the Academy.
“Tell me more.”
Author's Note: Thank you to the nearly 100 people who have read the relaunch of Tempting Fate thus far! I feel really lucky right now because writing this has been coming along easily, like the story has been waiting in my fingers for ages and I've finally made the time to let it out! I'm also working on some OF and ONF, and it's been so helpful to get these going again. Please feel free to leave reviews here for me -- feedback is so, so appreciated! I can't stress it enough. I love to hear from you, and want to hear from you!
Also, I do want to call attention to the warnings on this story. This story will deal with death, dying, and grief -- a sensitive topic that I take very seriously. My father passed away when I was in high school and the grieving process is something I've struggled with for a long time. I hope to illustrate that process with honor and respect, but please note that this may be a sensitive topic for some readers. I've marked the story with the appropriate warnings.
Credits: Chapter image made by me.
Chapter 7: Something Wasn't Right
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“My professors encouraged my interests and my strengths,” She said, her voice quiet and her body language conversational. “I think that was the biggest strength in my education. They told me that if my body wanted to move, I should learn to move with it—and that if I instinctually felt the need to do something, it would do more harm to stop myself from doing it than to do it.”
“Which is why you move so much, and why your sister didn’t move at all?”
“Yes, exactly,” She smiled, more to herself than to him, “We’re very different people, and they taught us to recognize that.”
“It looked as if you’d be taught in completely different traditions of dueling,” Harry commented. He seemed genuinely curious, which made Evelyn feel more open.
“In some ways we were,” she grew thoughtful for a moment, “Though we had the same teachers and took the same classes. Ellie was interested in differently methodologies than I was, and we were able to pursue our interests and apply them to combat.
”One of my favorite traditions to study was the Ancient Greeks, whereas Ellie was more interested in the Victorians. I think that comes through in our styles.”
Harry’s mouth dropped open a bit, and his eyes squinted at her curiously. He seemed to be searching for the right words. “Really?”
Evelyn nodded, smiling. They were seated in the common room near the fire, and most of the other students had gone to bed. Harry had been working at a nearby table with Hermione and Ron, and when the other two had gone off to bed, he had told them he would see them later—and had come over to ask Evelyn when she might be available to meet this week to practice dueling.
When she had said yes to him, she had thought that he might forget and nothing would come from it. But when he approached her, there was determination on his face. She knew, then, that he had been quite serious, and even though they weren’t much more than acquaintances, he had every intention of dueling with her. They had slipped into conversation easily, and eventually he had come round from the back of the sofa to sit next to her. It had been a long time since she had had a casual conversation with someone; it felt nice.
“I don’t know anything about the Greeks or the Victorians, or anyone in between,” Harry admitted, cocking his chin towards her as he studied her face in the firelight.
“Well, the Greeks were fascinating to me because of their focus on Transfiguration.” Evelyn leaned forward a little, the way she always did when she was excited to discuss something. “You can see the impact wizards and witches had on the culture at that time in their mythology. The gods and goddesses are always transforming someone into something, and as a tactic that fascinated me.”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean, how could your opponent beat you in battle if they were transfigured into a cow?”
Harry’s mouth dropped open again, but this time the corners of his mouth were upturned and he laughed breathily. “Are you serious?”
“It makes sense, doesn’t it!” Evelyn laughed, too. “My professors thought I was ridiculous at first as well. But when I bested all of my classmates by transfiguring them into tea cups and cats and binoculars, and they had to change them back, then they began to feel my argument was persuasive.” Harry laughed again, and she did too. “I like to provide plenty of evidence.”
“I’ll have to practice my shield charm before we practice.”
She nodded enthusiastically. “It doesn’t help that Aunt Minnie is brilliant in Transfiguration. She offered a lot of help that first summer, when I was first interested in the Greeks.”
Harry raised an eyebrow at Minnie, but only replied, “And what about the Victorians?”
“As a young Englishman, I assumed you would be familiar with the Victorians?” Evelyn cocked an eyebrow at him, the firelight reflecting in her eyes and making her look more playful. Harry had never seen her like this. Usually, she felt so aloof—happy, giddy even, but not attainable. There were days in class when he felt that if he had reached out to touch her, his fingers would have slid through her like Nearly Headless Nick. That night, sitting on the couch, she was tangible.
He could feel himself smiling back at her, and he was struck by how natural it felt to talk with her. She didn’t seem to be too struck by the fact that he was Harry Potter, or the recent newspaper headlines. She didn’t look at him the way the other students did. To be fair, most of the time she looked at him like he was a rainbow—but this was an interesting exception.
“I know of the Victorians,” He smiled sheepishly. He had attended Muggle primary school until he received his Hogwarts letter, of course, but history had never been his strongest subject. “But I don’t know what they have to do with dueling.”
“The Victorians thrived on societal constructs—you know, courtesies, graces, public and social norms. There was always a right response, always a right action. That’s why they’re remembered for being prim, proper, and prude. All the weird stuff was closeted.” As Evelyn explained, she moved her hands quickly and straightened her posture to illustrate proper. “You can see that propriety in Ellie’s stance, right? The way she moves her wand? She’s very articulate in battle, and follows the traditional British standards of dueling that were popularized at that time. I assume many of the methods you’ve been taught follow those standards still.”
Harry’s mouth quirked up on one side. He was impressed. “Perhaps? I’m not sure… Do you think you’ll be able to tell me when we practice together?”
“I can try!” She happily agreed, that quirky emotional uptick flaring up. It didn’t feel organic, but he wondered what it was rooted in. Maybe she was just hiding behind the emotion because she was having a hard time transitioning to Hogwarts, maybe she didn’t feel safe yet—there were rumors something terrible had caused them to move—or maybe she was just a little off like Luna.
Harry nodded his ascent, looking gracious in the firelight. They picked a day and a time to meet, and he assured her there was a good space that he knew would be available for them. When he told her that he was going off to bed, she didn’t rise or agree that it had gotten late. She exchanged a good night with him, and stayed on the couch. Looking back from the staircase, Harry could see her staring into the firelight—the delight from her eyes subsided. She looked tired from that distance. She was aloof again.
He thought about the strange thing she had said weeks ago in Potions, and he could tell something wasn’t right with Evelyn Castell.
Credits: Chapter image made by me.
Chapter 8: Fighting Dirty
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Later that week, Evelyn met Harry in the common room and, together, they walked to the seventh floor. She followed him up the flights of stairs to a part of the castle she wasn’t sure she had seen before, and stared at a tapestry of Barnabas the Barmy while Harry marched up and down the hall.
She was on the verge of asking him what he was doing when she noticed a door that hadn’t been there before. Her eyebrows rose slightly, and her mouth hung open as she tried to find the right words. She was sure she didn’t look particularly flattering with her mouth gaping like that, but Harry’s smirk made up for it.
“The Room of Requirement,” he offered without being asked, “It makes itself available to anyone who is in great need.”
“And you’re in great need of dueling lessons from an American?”
“You have no idea.”
Evelyn quickly realized that Harry was very good at dueling. His stance was good, and his instincts were good. He applied the athletic endurance he had developed from Quidditch to combat. He knew when to cast a shield and when to counter with a more aggressive spell. He seemed to favor disarming spells, which she thought was kind of him. After volleying back and forth for a while, she noted that his movements seemed to naturally mix the Victorian style with a more modern style. He asked her what that meant, but she just shrugged.
“Nothing good, nothing bad. From what I noticed in class the other day, I would say that this is the style of most of the students here—but you’ve got great instincts, so I think that puts you a bit ahead of the pack.”
Harry nodded, but his jaw was set. “That won’t do.” He said after a few minutes, reflective. “I need you to teach me how to fight like you do, like your sister does.”
“What do you mean? It won’t do?” Evelyn stood across from him in the room he had required. It was a large space, perhaps too large for them, and there seemed to be a library of sorts with a variety of texts all related to spell casting.
“I need to be able to fight Voldemort,” Harry paused, watching her face closely, “And win.”
The October nights were increasingly cold and, as the fire began to die down in the common room, Elizabeth felt compelled to move to her bed. Though she knew she wouldn’t be able to sleep, she wanted to feel warm. The heavy quilts on her bed were appealing. Perhaps, she thought to herself, Hera is still awake.
Hera, who shared the two-person dormer with her, had recently taken an interest in Elizabeth and had attempted to strike up conversations with her over meals or in their room if Elizabeth returned before she was asleep. Elizabeth wasn’t certain how she felt about this new acquaintance, but she recognized a need for allies. Thus far, she had spent much of her time either alone or with her sister, and there was a gnawing feeling in her gut that this was unsustainable. Already Evelyn had been seeking her out less and less. Elizabeth had noticed a new following about her.
“Headed to bed?” The drawl reached out to her across the common room, and though she was surprised that she hadn’t noticed she wasn’t alone she did not convey that outwardly.
The person the voice came from didn’t necessarily surprise her. This wasn’t the first time he’d done this.
“It is almost one.”
“Early for you,” He replied, moving towards her as she began to pack her bag. She rolled her essay, placing it on top of her textbook. He picked up her quill before she could, rolling it between his long fingers.
“Can I help you with something, Malfoy?” Early on, she had noticed that people called Draco Malfoy by his last name only when they were trying to express distaste, irritation, or general hatred. Gryffindors always used his last name. She had tried Draco during their early interactions, but since their conversation a few weeks ago, their relationship had slowly trended towards Malfoy. He had irritated her, and she wasn’t quick to forgive.
“I’ve been waiting to talk to you.”
“How long have you been sitting there?” She scoffed, irritated again. He’d been like this since her correspondence with his aunt had begun.
He didn’t answer her. “He’s restless, they all are. He wants your allegiance.” Draco swallowed, holding out the quill for her to take. “His followers have proposed that the rest of your family meets a similar end if you aren’t marked soon, and he seems somewhat inclined to do so.”
A cracking pain shot through her temple, and her eyes flashed. Even in the darkness, the way his words seemed to race across her face startled him. She was usually so composed, quiet, even downcast. She quickly pulled herself back together, her mouth settling back into its familiar straight line.
“Tell him that I am more than willing to let him rid me of my family, and that I won’t promise him anything until I feel swayed to do so.” She snatched the quill from his palm and dropped it into her bag, a new smattering of ink stretching across her essay. “Just because some patchwork hat placed me in this ruddy house doesn’t mean I fall right into his ranks.”
She moved away from the couch, striding confidently towards the stairs. She could hear him groaning, and she called over her shoulder, “I’ll owl Bellatrix.”
Draco watched her retreat. She was stunning, intriguing. He liked the way that her biting remarks countered her sweet features. But, in the back of his mind, he couldn’t help but ask himself, why did the Dark Lord want her so badly?
Author's Note: I know this is a bit of a short one, but bare with me! I've got a very long one that I'm really looking forward to posting... Plus, I couldn't resist posting. I know the beginning is a little slow moving, but now we're getting some face time between the girls and the guys. They're definitely starting to get acclimated to their new school...
Credits: Chapter image made by me.
Chapter 9: Draco Determined
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Draco Malfoy had been patient. He had waited—longer than he had ever waited for a girl before. Since the beginning of the school year, he had been waiting. He had been working through his assignments (academic and other), positioning himself within the House among his peers, and waiting. Since he had first been tasked with observing the Castell sisters and reporting on their habits to his father, he had wondered and waited for more information. When his father had told him to focus only on Elizabeth, he had continued to wonder and, when he was instructed to put her into contact with his Aunt Bellatrix, he had been confused.
He had taken to staying up late in the common room, watching Elizabeth and wondering. He had tried making friendly conversation, questioning her, and even cornering her in aggressive desperation. None of these seemed to jar her. She didn’t have any details he could shake loose. With the exception of that first exchange about dueling, which he had immediately reported, and the night when her face betrayed her, she was usually standoffish. More often than not, she didn’t even notice him.
The longer he waited, the more desperate he became. It was as if he could feel the Dark Lord breathing down his neck, waiting eagerly for that moment in which Elizabeth Castell would confirm or deny Him so that He could respond, He could act. His followers were waiting and like coiled springs they were constantly contracting, eager to burst forth.
Everyone seemed eager, even his father. He could feel how desperate Voldemort was to get his hands on this girl.
Why? The question rung through Draco’s head each evening as he watched her from across the common room, and then later at night when he had finally gone to bed. He never could conjure up a suitable answer.
Even now, as he watched her lean over her work in the common room, brushing back a curtain of dirty blonde hair, he asked himself why. Certainly, she had potential. She already had perfected the smirk, which he had been working on since the age of four, and the glare, often directed at anyone who crossed her path. She was beautiful, and would be a highlight among the other Pureblood women in their circle. She knew how to get what she wanted; she had the majority of her professors wrapped tightly around her finger—despite the fact that she seemed somewhat depressed and downtrotten. At times, he thought it was a charade. It almost played to her advantage (though he noticed how often her aunt’s eyes were trained on her). Perhaps the most beneficial of her qualities was that she knew every single one of them.
Draco watched as Rhett Addington entered the common room, dropping his books near Elizabeth’s feet and pulling a chair close to her. Hera Manos came in a few steps behind him, and took up another chair at the table. Elizabeth set down her quill, and the thin line of her mouth perked up slightly. She had only recently begun to nurture these acquaintances.
For a brief moment in time, Draco wished he was that loser Addington—he wouldn’t mind confidently pulling himself close to that girl, and having her look up at him with even the briefest of smiles. She never smiled when he got close to her.
Draco knew already that it wouldn’t take long for her to fully develop these acquaintances into friendships, and to fully establish herself in the House. Soon she would call them friends, and she would find more. Even Pansy seemed to like her. The underclassmen, who currently tried their best to never cross her path, would turn to her like flowers in the sun if she began to do so little as smile at her. They would serve her. The upperclassmen, who currently eyed her whenever her long legs seemed to move her from point A to B, deemed her well-suited for Slytherian and silently accepted her. He assumed most of his male peers focused more on her legs than her well-suitedness.
It was about that moment, as her legs crossed his mind, that Rhett reached across the table and placed his hand on Elizabeth’s arm as they spoke together, with Hera, and smiled—and Draco knew. He knew that the Dark Lord wasn’t the only one after her. He wanted her, too.
Credit: Chapter image by me.
Chapter 10: Dreamwalker
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Shaken by another dream, Harry clambered down the stairs late Saturday night—or early Sunday morning, depending on how you counted time. The violent winds from the previous night had brought ashen storm clouds over the school. They stretched past every window. As Harry passed one such window, a flash of lightening brightened the sky. It cast shadows across the common room where the only other light was the dying ember in the hearth.
Though bleary eyed and tired, Harry noticed a willowy silhouette leaning against the couch, feet stretched close to the fireplace as if trying to connect with those last few bits of heat.
With the exception of the thunder rolling outside, the room was quiet and he wasn’t sure if he should disrupt it. He studied the form closely, but couldn’t tell if the person was sleeping or awake. Stepping off the last stair onto the common room floor, he applied some additional weight to ensure his steps were heard. There was no reaction, no movement.
The rain continued to patter against the window as he padded across the floor. His eyes, focused on the form, eventually registered the face of Evelyn Castell, eyes closed, face turned against the arm of the chair, blanket pulled up onto her torso with arms folded underneath. As he moved towards her, he could see that her brow would habitually scrunch up and release itself. Her chest was moving in a way that did not suggest peaceful sleep.
Harry began to reach out a hand to shake her awake, but something gave him pause. Her shoulders were tense, her legs looking as though they were actively reaching for the hearth. Her body seemed discombobulated—still and not still at the same time.
Evelyn’s teeth chomped against one another once, twice, three times. The sound was hollow, and a little startling. Harry’s hand hung between them, frozen. He wondered if this is what he looked like when he dreamed as he watched a few small beads of sweat curl against Evelyn’s hairline. Her lips began to flutter, and she mumbled nouns, verbs, and adjectives. None of the things that came out could be construed as sentences.
The longer Harry watched her, the more he felt this must be what he looked like. He wanted desperately to wake her, to question her. What did she dream of, and—perhaps more importantly—what did they have in common here? A small prickle sprung up in the back of his mind that the answer might not be something he liked. The Order cleared her, he thought, but perhaps the Order was wrong. He tensed, still, not waking her.
“Born under Gemini,” she muttered, body tensing more and more under the blanket. It was the first time she had gotten close to an actual sentence. Harry pulled his hand back to himself, staring at her, waiting for more.
It came, mumbled—or choked on, “Neither can live.”
The words were too familiar. Harry impulsively reached out, jabbing her shoulder almost too forcefully. Her eyes snapped open, showing first confusion, then pain.
“What did you say?” The words were a question, but they came out more demanding.
“Harry? Where,” Her eyes searched around, her brain slowly processing where she was and why he was leaning over her, knelt beside her, anxiety and anger waving across his face.
“What did you say,” Even more demanding now, desperate. They had been dueling together only a handful of times, had been acquainted for almost two months, were only beginning to get to know one another, but in that moment he felt no sense of embarrassment or any obligation to propriety. He felt only entitlement.
“I—I don’t know,” she stammered, moving her arms out from under the blanket, and dipping her shoulder towards him, stretching to look around. She could tell it was late, and they were the only ones there. This had been happening more frequently. It was as if her mind was a garden, and every once in awhile someone—or something—pushed open the gate that held back her memories, allowing one to slip into her consciousness and spread discord. It happened more often when she was sleeping, which she did so rarely. But when it happened while she was awake, it was painful. It was as if her mind split open for a moment, jarring everything the way a migraine might.
“What were you dreaming about then?”
She stared at him, blinking. She had been dreaming about Maryland, their home which was really only a few miles from her mother’s embassy and from the Academy but which had caused her mother great angst whenever they needed to take a Muggle car or public transportation into the city. There had been something amiss in the dream, something not right.
“I was dreaming about home.” Her voice was soft, her brow knitting together again the way it had when she was sleeping.
“You said, ‘born under Gemini,’” His reply came quickly, and he looked at the way her eyes flashed. “Was that in your dream? What does it mean?” He was moving closer to her, so close their noses almost touched. He couldn’t stop himself. He couldn’t pull back, even when his heart jumped a little when home came out of her mouth. Objectively, he knew he was intrusive and unfair, but he needed to know how that phrase—the phrase that he had rolled over in his mind again and again since Dumbledore had told him of the prophecy—had gotten into her head, and come out of her mouth while she struggled to dream.
“I don’t know, Harry,” Her eyes looked down at her hands, her legs moving under her body. She wasn’t moving away from him, but she was pulling back. He could tell she was thinking, searching her brain for an idea, for the dream—which was moving from her quicker and quicker. Her head began to ache, her eyes wet at the corners. She was confused. “I can’t, I can’t remember.”
“You can’t remember!” He exclaimed, his hands shooting up to her shoulders. “You have to, you have to remember.” He didn’t want to tell her the other phrase that she had said, he wanted her to remember on her own, to fill in the gaps without him supplying any additional information.
Her eyes met his, and he knew she didn’t know. Her eyes were round and vacant, her brain still searching for more information. “I’m sorry,” she finally whispered, “I don’t know—I don’t, Harry, I would tell you,” she murmured again and again.
His chest was rising and falling, and he felt himself beginning to panic. This was just one more thing that she had said that surprised and confused him. One more thing that suggested she knew something that he wanted to know.
“She doesn’t know, Harry,” the voice called out across the common room, and his eyes moved up, surprised to see Hermione Granger standing near the portrait hole, watching them.
Author's Note: Thank you to everyone who continues reading! I've been reading a lot of different stories across the site, and it's been so wonderful immersing myself back into the community here. I think I may have just made my way through the majority of Mistress's stories, which have left me laughing, smiling, and rolling my eyes at some of the antics of the next generation characters. Her stories have such a lovely and humorous voice!
If you have any stories you'd recommend to me or if you'd like me to read your writing, please let me know! I'm always looking for a new story.
As for this story, I am currently ahead in writing, about three chapters, with much of the story outlined. I am trying to keep myself from posting until I've written a new chapter... We'll see how well that works in the coming weeks!
Chapter image by me.
The line "neither can live" is pulled from the work of J. K. Rowling, as are many of the characters and the setting, and are completely and entirely hers. The original characters, including Evelyn and Elizabeth Castell, and the AU-plot line are mine.
Chapter 11: All Hallow's Eve
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It had only been a few days since Evelyn had awoken with an earnest, panicked, confused Harry leaning over her, pleading with her to share her dream with him. He had kept his distance since then, but Hermione had made apologies on his behalf. Evelyn hadn’t asked Hermione what she had told Harry, or how the other girl had known that she didn’t recall the dream or the phrase or any useful details that Harry might have wanted.
It was as if Hermione was her ally suddenly, and Evelyn didn’t question the shift towards friendship that had occurred in their otherwise straightforward acquaintance.
Late on Monday, after her homework had been completed, Evelyn thanked Hermione again for her actions on Sunday morning. The girl smiled, a mixture of sadness and empathy in her eyes, and told her that she needn’t be thanked.
“I don’t know what Harry might have done if he didn’t believe me,” Evelyn whispered in the hopes the other girls wouldn’t hear. Most of them had already closed their curtains, and were seemingly asleep.
“He wouldn’t have hurt you,” Hermione said evenly, her face open and honest.
“I know, but,” The words died in her throat, and she tried a small smile.
Hermione nodded with understanding. She had seen the way desperation played across Harry’s face in the dying firelight. Hermione hadn’t told him what she hypothesized, only that she had a theory she was hoping to prove that would explain why Evelyn wouldn’t possibly be able to recall the details he was asking for, but that hadn’t been enough to sooth him. He had been moody since she hadn’t confined in him and, while steering clear of Evelyn generally, was also keeping some distance between him and her as well. She was irritated with his behavior, but she couldn’t tell him her theory yet.
“I’m sorry if this has caused an issue between the two of you. I know you’re friends.” Evelyn continued, the small smile still there.
“We are best friends,” Hermione admitted, “And Harry will come around. He’s rather driven by curiosity.”
“And he’s curious about me?” Evelyn’s brows arched somewhat.
“He’s curious about what you know, yes,” Hermione nodded, her tone matter-of-fact. “I know you don’t remember, but you said a few things in your sleep that Harry thinks may be related to… To things he’s experiencing.” Just as Hermione didn’t want to give too much away about Evelyn to Harry, she didn’t want to give too much away about Harry to Evelyn. She chose her words carefully. “I’m sure you’d be curious, too, if the situation was reversed.”
Evelyn nodded along from her bed, only adding, “The problem seems to be that I don’t know anything.”
Hermione only smiled, scooting back onto her bed and bringing her feet under the covers. She had a meeting with Professor McGonagall early the next morning that she was very much looking forward to.
Evelyn was surprised to learn that interest in Halloween had ebbed and flowed over the years at Hogwarts. Some years, her peers had been content to attend a headless hunt—of which she could only somewhat comprehend from the varying descriptions—and other years they had done almost nothing.
“I’m surprised there isn’t a party,” Evelyn said to Hermione as they descended the girls’ staircase, books in arms. Hermione had been spending the last few days with Evelyn as they had most of the same classes. She had even been eating meals with her, and—if Evelyn didn’t know any better—seemed to take a general liking to her. Harry was still avoiding both of them, discontinuing his dueling practice with Evelyn and giving Hermione monosyllabic answers whenever she tried to talk to him.
Ron, too, seemed to be narrowing his eyes at Hermione when she passed, though both girls knew it was only because he was supporting Harry. After a few days of their antics and one particularly surly interaction, Hermione had exclaimed you are both daft, shortsighted boys across the common room. It was that particular outburst that had made Evelyn recognizing her growing fondness for Hermione.
“I’m sure if Ron’s older brothers were still here there might have been a party, but typically we only celebrate after a Quidditch victory. The only other exceptions were during the TriWizard Tournament.”
“Really?” Evelyn raised a brow, “We partied almost every weekend at the Academy. We often had no reason at all.”
“Perhaps Lee Jordan or someone will pull something together? If Harry and Ron weren’t being such gits right now, I’d suggest it to them—but,” Hermione exhaled.
“But they’re being gits,” Evelyn supplied, the British slang rolling off her American tongue awkwardly. Both girls chuckled.
The conversation died away and was ultimately forgotten after a particularly grueling Potions class. Evelyn had always been incredibly average at Potions, which had been fine by her, as she really did prefer to devote her energy to spellwork.
Slughorn did not seem overly impressed with her work in the classroom, though he did appreciate her surname and often stopped near her cauldron to have a chat. He had been somewhat put off by her happiness in the beginning weeks of the semester, but as she herself felt a little more even-keeled she noticed that he now took to her more often. In this particular class, he spoke with her so long that her cauldron over boiled. She was annoyed with him, but attempted patience with a smile as he waved his wand to clean up the mess and then continued on with his story. To her dismay, she left class fifteen minutes after the rest of the Gryffindors because he felt she needed to know the end of the story—and she had humored him.
As she quickly made her way through the dungeons towards the Great Hall, where Hermione had said she would save her a seat at lunch, she came upon two students in hushed conversation. She recognized the pair immediately.
Draco Malfoy leaned over her sister, his hand flat against the wall over her shoulder. He was less than a head taller than Elizabeth, but the positioning of their bodies made him look taller. Elizabeth was casually slouched against the wall, looking up at him. Her face was blank, her lips drawn in a straight line and her eyes looking up at his with boredom. Evelyn had seen that look before whenever Elizabeth had been asked to do a chore.
“Elizabeth?” Evelyn said her sister’s name softly, wanting to make sure she was okay. The pair looked up at her, their conversation ceasing instantly.
“Evelyn.” Her sister gave a curt nod, eying her but not asking her to stop.
So, Evelyn continued to move down the corridor, past them, without question. Only when her foot had hit the first stair and she had begun to ascend that she heard Draco pick the conversation up again. His voice was quiet, but Evelyn could make out tonight then.
There were two identical men standing in the common room surrounded by a small group, including Harry, Ron, and Ginny, when Hermione and Evelyn entered the room after lunch. Hermione had waited with Evelyn, who took longer to eat because of her delay. She had briefly recounted the exchange she had witnessed to Hermione, again asking if there were any parties or festivities happening in the castle that evening. Hermione, who insisted she hadn’t heard of anything, looked somewhat nervous and explained that Draco Malfoy wasn’t someone she particularly trusted.
Though they had stayed close to one another in the first few weeks of school, Evelyn and Elizabeth had never been particularly close since adolescence set in and, once they had adjusted to their houses, had begun to move away from one another. It hadn’t surprised Evelyn or even really concerned her; they had had completely different friend groups at the Academy and, despite their parents’ constant intercession, they hadn’t been particularly close. There was fondness, Evelyn thought, but not closeness. When Hermione asked why Evelyn hadn’t asked her sister if she was alright, she had replied, we’re not close like that… We haven’t been since we were little. There’s just always been something too different about us.
The sentence hung about Evelyn’s head, rolling over and over again as they entered the common room. It was a piss poor excuse, she knew, but she also knew it would have been strange from her to insert herself into Elizabeth’s life when it was so clearly evident she wasn’t wanted.
“Speak of the devil!” Hermione said, smiling as she walked up to the two identical men. Evelyn followed her over, smiling brightly at the two and ignoring the look of skepticism that washed over Harry as she came to stand with the others. “What might you lot be up to tonight?”
“We thought we’d come and peddle some new products to the lovely students of Gryffindor Tower,” one of them said.
The other added, “And what better holiday than All Hallow’s Eve?”
“And what of the loot of spirits you’ve brought with you?” Ginny said, smiling.
“Also for sale!” The first one replied, smiling broadly at Ginny, who Evelyn had deduced with evidently his sister. They had the same color and same eyes.
“So this has nothing to do with providing additional oversight as this is my first Halloween with a boyfriend?” Ginny chided, crossing her arms.
“That may have been an additional factor!” Supplied the second, “We knew Ron wasn’t tough enough to handle the job.” Ron blushed furiously, but didn’t retort fast enough as Hermione was quickly interjecting.
“I was explaining to Evelyn this morning that we don’t typically have parties unless Quidditch is involved, but that you might have played a factor in that if you were still here—and now here you are!” Hermione motioned to Evelyn, who quickly introduced herself to the first one—Fred—and the second—George—of Weasley fame. She immediately took a shining to the twins, who fueled one another. Their humorous volley made her laugh, and she liked the way they easily wrapped her into the conversation.
Evelyn and Hermione didn’t have afternoon classes, but they both agreed it would be nice to wrap up some homework they had started the previous night before they joined the festivities. This meant rejecting sips from a flask that Fred had produced from an inside pocket on his vest, but he promised to offer again later that night.
The girls disappeared to the library for a few hours, and when they returned shortly after dinner—assignments complete and sights on a festive evening—the common room had been rearranged. Furniture was pushed against the walls to allow wallflowers to seat themselves. The study tables had been arranged to accommodate the various different bottles and products that the twins had brought with them. Steamers hung across the ceiling in colorful disarray, and music came from a gramophone. The fire crackled happily.
A few people had seated themselves on the couches, and a few more were browsing the twins’ products. Otherwise the room was empty as most people were either finishing dinner or changing out of their school robes.
Hermione and Evelyn stopped at the table briefly to check in with Fred and George, who were already quite happy with their sales. They were hurried away by the twins, who insisted Hermione should find an outfit to “show some leg for once,” which made Hermione blush as they ascended the stairs together.
While they dressed, Hermione told Evelyn of the summers she had stayed at the Burrow with Ron’s family and of the twins’ dramatic exit at the end of the year. Some of the tales she told made Evelyn giggle while others made her eyes round out in shock. She was surprised to hear how much the trio had been through together. She had heard news of some of the things that happened at Hogwarts, but it was always unclear how reliable the American papers were as they were evidently biased—particularly since the return of the Dark Lord.
When they returned to the common room, there were many more people filling the space. Ginny was dancing with Dean Thomas amongst a few other couples. Her brothers each seemed to have one eye on her, and one eye on whomever they were talking to. Many people were crowded onto the couches, talking with drinks in their hands or without. It was a casual atmosphere. Though not necessarily what Evelyn had expected in regard to a Halloween event, she felt it was a good opportunity for her to better experience her house and her housemates. She hadn’t really taken advantage of many social events, and now was her chance.
“You are standing very close to me.”
“It’s not safe here.” He eyed her. They stood in a clearing of the Forbidden Forest just beyond the school grounds, waiting for the arrival of their port key. His aunt’s letter had given them specific directions to follow, including the location of this clearing and a description of the white porcelain chipped teacup with a small red fleur de lis pattern around the rim that would appear in the clearing around eleven. It would disappear after ten minutes if it were not used.
“It’s safer standing close to you… My stalker…” Elizabeth murmured, crossing her arms over her chest. The sleeves pushed up on her black robe, revealing her white, slender wrists.
“I have not been stalking you!” Draco snapped, narrowing his eyes and shifting his weight onto the foot furthest from her. “I’ve been tasked with observing you.”
“You have a more important task from what I hear.”
“You know about the task?” He looked alarmed now. “You haven’t even been marked yet.”
“I know more than I should,” She smirked, tilting her chin up towards him and shifting her weight so that they were closer again.
The teacup appeared before he could reply.
Shortly after they landed outside the Lestrange manor, Draco said, “What are you getting at? What do you know?”
“Just that you might need some help,” She pulled her hood over her head, tucking her long hair into the cloak. “And that I’m not alone in that opinion.”
“Are you offering? Or are you just looking to be a part of the glory.”
“Murder isn’t glory,” She said quickly. “Revenge is.”
They approached the door and Draco traced his finger along the wooden panel just as Bellatrix had instructed him in their letter. There was a dull throbbing at the base of her skull, but she didn’t want him to know. The aching was becoming a familiar feeling, and she wondered briefly is Evelyn felt it, too. Dismissive, distant Evelyn who had moved away from her as soon as she had found an opening in her new house—no different than at home Evelyn. The thought alone caused the throb to increase, and she found herself hoping that Evelyn could feel it.
Bellatrix approached them in the entrance hall, fussing over Elizabeth in an almost maternal way that Draco had never witnessed before. She took down Elizabeth’s hood, fluffy her curls so they lay attractively across the black fabric. The entire ceremony had been detailed in her letter, but she took a few moments to remind Elizabeth of the steps. She nodded, her expression blank as she committed each piece to memory.
Just before beckoning them onward, Bellatrix added, “He’ll be marking you himself.”
The sentence made Draco start, but Elizabeth didn’t react. She’d had a feeling he would want to, given everything she’d learned thus far.
“That’s unprecedented,” Draco said, but his mouth snapped shut immediately when his aunt looked at him with disgust. They were silent as they continued down the hall, entering a darkened dining hall where a handful of people had already gathered. Most were masked. Elizabeth didn’t look at them. She kept her eyes at the man standing near the head of the group, a large snake lounging around his ankles. His red eyes followed her intently, concentrating on her. She could feel him attempting to work his way into her mind, but she felt inclined to refuse him. As she did, he smiled—or attempted to smile, as the way his lips curled upward on wither side was more like a snarl.
The ceremony was straightforward enough. She followed Bellatrix’s advice, kneeled when she knew she should kneel, responded when she knew she should respond. She devoted herself to him verbally and, when that was over, signed a contract he had formed using dark magic. Bellatrix had told her of this document as well.
When the time came to sign it, the Dark Lord said, “You sign in blood.” His voice filled the hall. There was a knife and a quill on a platter beside the prie dieu she knelt on.
Without hesitation, she took up the knife and passed it across her left palm. With her uninjured hand, she picked up the quill and quickly dipped it into the slit. Then, with large loops and swift curves, Elizabeth signed her name. In the yellow torchlight that illuminated the hall, Ellie saw her name shine gold. Then, the contract ignited itself. The flames licked every inch of the parchment, but the paper did not burn.
“Your alliance has been tested and proven.” The Dark Lord declared, a sense of greediness in his tone that Elizabeth liked. She looked into his eyes from the prie dieu and smiled as he asked for her arm.
It wasn’t until Draco had returned them to the clearing just beyond the school grounds that the throbbing in her head overtook her. She collapsed there, her fingers still locked with his, thinking only of the way her forearm burned with the Dark Mark.
Author's Note: I apologize for the delay! I was hoping to get this out last weekend, but had an event to attend and was away from my computer much of the weekend. But, here it is, alas! The long chapter I've been alluding to... and I can promise it will be followed by another long one, soon.
I'm also working on a long one that will come a little bit later. (I think you might be able to guess why it's long!) It's definitely been a bit rough to come at, since the original version of the story allowed for something quite different that wouldn't work in this revision. But it's definitely coming along and I'm excited to see what ya'll think of the next few chapters... There's a lot of important plot moments ahead! I encourage reviews!
Credits: Chapter image and all original characters by me. Canon characters and setting by J.K. Rowling.
Chapter 12: Hallowmas
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Evelyn had been leaning over a tower of Weasley product, smiling at George, when her eyes rolled backwards and she collapsed on to the floor. The neon orange products came down with her, a few of them breaking open and leaking onto the floor.
George moved quickly around the table and was the first one at Evelyn’s side, followed closely by Harry and then Hermione. The Gryffindors moved away from her, making room but not getting too far away so that they could clearly see what was happening. George checked her pulse, and then felt her head. He looked at Hermione. “She’s warm and looks a little flushed, but she’s breathing normally.”
“Was she drinking?” Harry asked, also looking at Hermione.
She nodded, “No more than me though.”
George reached up to the table, and grabbed the cup she’d been drinking from. He sniffed it, but shook his head. “I don’t think there’s anything wrong with it, but it’s difficult to tell.” He asked Fred to bring some water over, and asked Ron to toss him a pillow from where he was seated near the fire (and craning his neck to observe the scene).
Hermione felt Evelyn’s wrist again, just as George had. She wrinkled her nose, trying to decipher something new, but unsuccessful.
Evelyn’s teeth chomped against one another three times, and Harry’s eyes focused on her keenly. It was the same noise she had made the other night when she was sleeping. His brow furrowed, and he shot Hermione a look filled with suspicion and annoyance. Perhaps if she had told me what she suspected, I could be more useful, he thought bitterly.
Before he could open his mouth to ask Hermione what she thought they should do, Evelyn gasped once, twice, swallowing air greedily as her chest buckled upward. Then her eyes flew open.
Elizabeth could feel the low-hanging branches scraping across her arm before her eyes opened. She was disoriented, and initially couldn’t tell how her body was moving. When her eyes flickered open, she saw the moon first—then the dark outline of a man.
It only took a moment for her brain to bring back the events of the evening. Her body felt sore and exhausted, and her head hurt. There was something blossoming there, latent and on the edge of her mind. She couldn’t quite bring it to the front. Instead, she focused on the face of Draco Malfoy, who had yet to notice she was conscious again. His jaw was set with determination, and she could see a few beads of sweat on his temple. A piece of his blond hair had fallen from its manicured style onto his forehead. He looked a little more rugged than his typical getup. She liked it.
Her shoulders began to ache from the way he was carrying her, and she wanted to walk. Her voice was hoarse as she tried to call attention to herself. Draco almost dropped her when she did.
“Are you hurt?” His question came out in a whisper, and he eyed he genuinely as she steadied herself on her feet.
“I hurt,” She admitted, allowing herself to use a nearby tree to regain her balance, “But I’m not hurt. I’m okay to make it back to the common room.”
He studied her a moment. He bit his lip, thinking, and then said, “What happened?”
“I’m not sure,” Evelyn looked at Hermione anxiously. “I almost feel like I have a migraine.” She took the cup of water George offered her and slowly sipped.
“Do you want to go to the Hospital Wing?” He asked, taking the glass from her. People were still hovering about, but a few had returned to their conversations. One person took George’s spot behind the makeshift bar and began pouring some drinks, silently motioning a couple friends to come over and help him with the cups. Someone else turned the music back on. Hermione looked at the gramophone skeptically, but Evelyn was relieved to have the attention turned away from her. Her head hurt, and she couldn’t quite bring up a poker face just yet. There was something blossoming in the back of her mind, latent and on the edge. She couldn’t quite bring it to the front.
“No,” She felt sheepish sitting on the floor, and made to get up. George took one of her arms, and Harry took the other. “I think I’m okay, actually.” She could feel the blood rushing back into her head, a little more than normal settling into her cheeks. She felt hot, and her head pulsed unpleasantly. “Might actually need another drink,” She joked.
George chuckled softly, but Hermione and Harry just looked at her with tight smiles. “Better not,” Hermione replied. “But if you’ve got a migraine, coffee might help.”
She nodded, knowing that a cup of coffee would give her something to do—something to look at and hold, something to pay attention to. She desperately wanted something to pay attention to as she stood, fawned over by a handful of people, in a common room that was still new to her.
George handed Hermione a glass from the bar, and before Evelyn could do much more than nod, black coffee was spurting out of the end of Hermione’s wand and into the glass.
Evelyn took the cup graciously, taking a sip and burning her tongue a little. She didn’t even mind as the burn distracted her momentarily from the weight of her head. She looked at Harry over the rim of the glass, noting that his eyes didn’t seem to leave her. She would have spent more time wondering what he was thinking if she wasn’t distracted by that probing thing sitting at the edge of her mind. It was a like she had forgotten a word that she needed in the middle of a conversation, and she could feel it there—on the tip of her tongue—eluding her.
“Can I get you anything else?”
“Just back to the damn castle.”
Elizabeth plucked a leaf off of her cloak as she rose from the forest floor. They had paused momentarily in their walk, and she had slid down the tree to rest. The longer they waited, the more her head hurt—and she wouldn’t give Draco the pleasure of carrying her over the threshold of the castle and into the common room (or Hospital Wing, as he kept insisting).
She grimaced for a moment, back on her feet fully and away from the tree. She hadn’t realized how much she was relying on its support.
“Are you sure you can make it? It’s not very far, but at least a ten-minute walk still. Maybe fifteen.” He paused, looking at the moon and trying to gauge their position like a dutiful boy scout.
“Just walk.” She snapped. The pulsing pain in her head was competing with the pain on her forearm, and she wanted nothing more than to lie in her bed. She hoped Hera had gone to sleep, though she was willing to bet she had stayed up waiting.
“I need to make sure you’re okay,” He insisted, “I can’t be responsible for your death, considering how fond He is of you.”
“Just walk,” She was getting frustrated. “I don’t know the way. I can’t get back unless you lead.”
“Is that you’re way of admitting you need me?” He drawled, a smirk appearing on his face. He was infuriating. He didn’t wait for her response, but he did turn and take a few steps along a trail that she hadn’t noticed in the moonlight. She followed, concentrating on his feet as much as she could. She didn’t want to talk; she just wanted to put her heavy head on the pillow.
There was still something there on the edge of her mind, bothering her. It was the same infuritating feeling she had when she couldn’t remember the answer to a question on an exam when she distinctly knew that she should know it. It lingered there, biding its time. She wondered what it was—knowing it wouldn’t be how much newt tail was needed for a pepper up potion or whether her wand needed to circle clockwise or counterclockwise for a levitation charm—and when it would make itself known.
They walked for a few minutes before Draco broke the silence. “Are you sure you’re doing okay?”
“Yes, better now actually.” Evelyn set the empty glass on the bar, smiling at George. He had returned to his products, righting the display that she had taken down with her while Hermione watched her drink her coffee. She had wandered back over to him when Harry had asked Hermione if he could have a word with her in private. They were off in the corner of the common room now, whispering adamantly back and forth. She could tell by the narrowness of Hermione’s eyes that it wasn’t going well.
“Is passing out a thing you do often?” Georged asked innocently, smiling at her.
“Not to my knowledge,” She returned in the same playful tone. “Although I’ve been known to do worse when I’ve got a stiff drink in my hand.”
He quirked an eyebrow up playfully, and she realized that she liked the way he looked—or, perhaps, she liked the way he looked at her. His eyes didn’t hold the same curiousity that many of the other students had when they realized that she was the transfer student that’d heard this or that about.
They fell into conversation easily, and she was delighted to hear about his new business and the products he was currently developing. For a few minutes, she was able to focus on him and the conversation—and forget about the way the pulsing was slowly transforming into a throbbing behind her eyes. It was almost two in the morning, she realized, and the crowd was starting to thin. Fred was trying to push some products with a sleepy group of first years, and George was starting to pack away the few items that were left on the table. Ron had fallen asleep on the couch, and Ginny had disappeared to bed—separately from Dean Thomas, who Fred had escorted to his room. Hermione and Harry were still in conversation, but her eyes were notably less narrow. There was a few other familiar faces hanging about, including one couple sitting intimately by the fire, lips rarely leaving one anothers. It was perhaps the quietest Halloween she had ever celebrated, and this first day in November was already beginning on a more somber note than years past.
She knew she needed to sleep, but she wasn’t sure if she could. The idea of sleep made her nervous. Would that little bit of information she couldn’t quite get a grip on come forward while she dreamed?
“Bed?” Georged asked, noticing that she hadn’t replied to him in a few moments. He could tell by the look on her face that she’d been distracted by her thoughts. “You look tired.”
“I feel tired,” She sighed, not getting up from the seat she’d pulled behind his sales table. “I haven’t felt this tired in a long time, actually.”
“But you don’t want to go to bed?”
“You are a good conversationalist,” She smiled, “And I assume you’ll be gone in the morning?”
“You assume correctly,” He nodded, “We’ll be exiting through the floo in Dumbledore’s office.”
For some reason the thought of flooing made her crinkle her nose. It seemed to tug at the thought on that was eluding her. Floo, flooing, the floo network, she rolled all the variations over in her brain, but still, it wouldn’t come fully into the center of her mind. She was starting to become irritated, and she realized quite suddenly that her head hurt a lot more than she had been aware of. “I think I’m just going to sit for a little while,” she hummed a little, picking up the water glass she’d been sipping from and moving towards the couch that she favored near the fireplace. She ran her fingers across the arm, steadying herself a little.
“I think you just want to watch me clean.” George chided, watching her move away from him.
Author's Note: Thank you to all of my readers for breaking into 300 reads! For some this may be a small milestone, but for me--well, I think it's amazing! Keep with me... It's just getting excited.
If anyone feels like reviewing, I'd love to know what you think of the movement in this chapter between the sisters!
Credits: Chapter image and all original characters by me. Canon characters and setting by J.K. Rowling.
Chapter 13: Closed Doors
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“And then she fainted.” Hermione concluded matter-of-factly, raising her teacup off of the saucer that had been handed to her. She sipped at it politely, but her eyes never left her professor’s face. She wondered momentarily if her hands were shaking, but the cup didn’t clatter against the saucer as she brought it back down to her lap. She crossed her ankles, blinking quietly at Minerva McGonagall.
Minerva nodded almost absentmindedly. Her lips were pursed and Hermione could tell she was thinking though she did not give much indication of it.
Normally Hermione considered herself to be a quite composed person, but the longer she sat across from her professor without a whisper or a hum the more unnerved she felt. After what seemed an eternity, there was a noise—unfortunately it was the sound of Hermione’s cup rattling against the saucer in her lap.
Hermione recounted the monologue she had delivered. Evelyn seems to be oscillating between feelings of aloofness, giddiness, and pain…. The closer I seem to get to her, and the more she seems to trust me, the more her behavior normalizes. However, the closer she gets to other students, the more fragile the amnesia becomes. I think this may be due to the fragility of the charm generally, but also because as she builds more meaningful relationships her consciousness is making connections to former experiences as she builds new memories. This would involve recall, comparing, contrasting, functions which each require overcoming the hurdle of the amnesia…. I’ve tried observing Elizabeth, but of course don’t have as much access. Regardless I think she may be experiencing the same symptoms. I think they may be linked…. She’s been having headaches, maybe migraines. She’s not sleeping…. She fainted.
By the time she’d cycled through the entire conversation again, only one thing had changed. Minerva had unpursed her lips. There was another moment of silence, and Hermione considered interjecting. Then Minerva said, softly and slowly, “It won’t be much longer.”
Hermione bit the side of her lip, but still didn’t speak. It was very difficult to stop her from speaking, but she had been diligently working on her restraint since first year. Her friendship with Ron had been a helpful practice field.
“If she’s starting to do everything you’ve said, experiencing headaches, and losing consciousness, it won’t be much longer. All of the studies that Demeter has forwarded to me suggest those symptoms indicate the memory will return.” Minerva laced her fingers in her lap, but her shoulders were still tense. “Has she described a sense of forgetfulness, or partial recall? As though a thought or feeling is on the tip of her tongue?”
“I don’t think so—not to me at least.”
“Do you think she would have confided that to anyone else? It would be really important for us to know; it would indicate the memories are imminent. And,” Minerva paused, and her fingers tightened in her lap, “If we knew, then we could make sure they were in a safe place when it happened.”
“Perhaps Harry, but they seem on less friendly terms since the incident in the common room, or George, maybe,” Hermione sighed, adding, “They seemed to enjoy each other’s company at the party.” She felt as though she had betrayed a friend by confiding a secret to an adult. She wasn’t used to maintaining female friendships. There were different rules than those dictating male friendships. Her teeth sunk a little deeper into her lip.
As the conversation lulled again, Hermione realized quite suddenly how strange this whole conversation was. She felt almost as if she was plotting, but she knew it wasn’t exactly like that. She knew she was helping, as she had done in many scenarios before, and that she was doing right. She thought she was doing right.
When Hermione had taken all of the pieces—the strange conversation Harry had relayed after potions, the behavior of Evelyn and Elizabeth, their general aloofness, their sudden appearance without any real explanation, the fact the Order had approved of their coming to the school despite the Order’s unacknowledged status by the Ministry at this point in the war, the way in which Evelyn never seemed to refer to her past or former experiences, the way Professor McGonagall’s eyes followed her nieces at meals—and combined it with a little bit of research, she had developed a hunch.
It became a suspicion when she saw the interaction between Harry and Evelyn that night in the common room.
It had been confirmed when, as soon as she’d seen Evelyn to bed, she’d left the Gryffindor Tower, gone to McGonagall’s office, and laid all of the facts out for her professor. The look on her professor’s face had told her she was right before the older woman could vocalize it. It had been a mystery, and Hermione had solved it—no different than discovering the basilisk or Professor Lupin’s secret. What she did now was less certain, and more difficult to navigate.
Once McGonagall had ensured Hermione would keep this secret, she had enlisted her to watch the girls—or at the very least Evelyn—and asked her to dig a bit deeper into her research. It quickly became apparent that McGonagall had a plan, and Hermione had stepped into the middle of it. She hadn’t met Demeter yet, but she felt as though she had at this point. She had read her letters after McGonagall finished reading, had read the studies that had been forwarded, had written herself to share new discoveries from the restricted section of the library, and had seen a photo of her with Evelyn and Elizabeth standing in front of their home in Maryland. Their magicked faces smiled in a way that was only vaguely familiar to Hermione. The wind blew their hair about, and they repeatedly tucked loose strands behind their ears, just to be hopelessly undone.
That hopelessness was plain on each of the women’s faces, and it made them laugh. On at least one occasion, Hermione had watched as Demeter reached over to her right to tuck hair behind Evelyn’s ear, then to her left to do the same to Elizabeth, and then back again to her right to repeat with Evelyn—all while her own hair flung about. They laughed, and smiled, which made Hermione smile, too.
How had they gotten here? Hermione had turned the question over again and again since McGonagall had taken her into her confidence. She hadn’t explained why Evelyn and Elizabeth had undergone the amnesia charm, only that they had. If there was a mystery left to solve, this was it.
Minerva sighed, breaking Hermione’s train of thought. “What say you, Miss Granger?” Her glasses sat low on her nose, and she looked over the frames at Hermione. “Do we set them up to remember, or allow the process to precede at the pace at which it is already moving?”
Hermione gave her opinion, but she could tell by the look on her professor’s face that it was only partially received. She quickly finished her tea, and rose to excuse herself.
“You should write Demeter, and you should consult the Order.” Hermione added, biting her lip again. This time, she tasted blood.
Credits: Chapter image and all original characters by me. Canon characters and setting by J.K. Rowling.
Chapter 14: Permanent
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Elizabeth studied her forearm with admiration as she gently glided soap up and down her arm. It was a little tender still, but she liked the sore feeling as she moved the bar against the slender muscle. She had never thought of getting a tattoo, as there had never been anything she liked so much to want with her all the time. However, this, this was something she didn’t mind carrying with her. It felt important.
Perhaps more significantly it felt permanent.
The smile dropped a bit when she felt a gnawing feeling at the edge of her mind that suggested this was the first thing she’d ever had that felt permanent.
She placed the soap on its ledge, rinsing her hair and turning off the water quickly. She began to move more rapidly through her routine, trying to ignore the dull thud in the back of her head as she wrapped her hair quickly in a towel and casted a few glamour spells. She didn’t bother to look in the mirror. She moved into the room she shared with Hera, her eyes lingering on her roommate who sat on her own bed, pulling a nail file across her fingers.
“Can I see it?” Hera didn’t look up, but Elizabeth could tell she was eager to see. The night before, when Elizabeth couldn’t sleep, Hera had rambled on and on in an effort to soothe her new friend. Only Draco has received the mark, otherwise this is unprecedented. And, you know, Draco only received it because of the mysterious task that everyone has been whispering about. Do you know… Do you have a task? Is there a reason….
Elizabeth extended her arm triumphantly, her small smile extending to a grin as Hera pulled her arm closer. Elizabeth’s legs stuttered below her, and she took an extra step to balance herself. Hera was running her finger across it.
“It’s smoother than a tattoo, you know,” Her eyes looked envious, “Almost like it’s just a part of you… Instead of on top of your skin.” She sighed, adding, “I think it’s amazing.”
Hera met Elizabeth’s eyes, and she could see it there—the emotion almost like adoration, the knowledge that they were apart of something so much bigger than themselves. That Elizabeth had a purpose. She soaked in her friend’s admiration with greed.
She reluctantly ended it, pulling out her wand and placing a glamour charm over her forearm that Bellatrix had recommended to her. A shimmer waved over her arm and the mark seemed to sink into her skin, disappearing. Hera looked up at her with slight disappointment. “I had to,” Elizabeth shrugged, “You know it’s not safe. Not everyone feels the way you do about it.”
“You mean jealous?”
Elizabeth smiled, moving towards her wardrobe and beginning to dress quickly. They fell into easy conversation, pattering back and forth, and eventually agreeing to venture out to the library in an attempt to do more than gossip.
They had barely settled into their Ancient Runes essays when they were interrupted by a cold drawl, which split the silence. It was a solemn word: “Elizabeth?”
She knew immediately who it was, and didn’t look up when she replied, “Draco.”
“Is that your Ancient Rune’s essay? Is it done? I’d like to copy it, or yours Manos, if you will?”
Hera, like many girls in their house, batted her eyelashes at Draco and quipped, “I guess I could do you this favor, but I haven’t finished mine yet. We’re actually just starting.” She paused a moment, tucking her hair behind her ear, “Why don’t you join us instead?”
His cold eyes flitted from Hera, who looked at him sweetly, and Elizabeth, who was focused on whatever she was writing, and then he dropped into the seat across from them. They worked in relative silence for many long minutes, and Elizabeth made great progress. She found that she actually enjoyed Ancient Runes, and liked to prepare for and take part in Professor Babbling’s class discussions. It was one of the few classes her sister had never taken an interest in, which back home had been a relief to Elizabeth. It continued to be so here.
When she completed the first of the two translations, she paused to look around the table. Draco was almost done with the passage she had just completed. He had some ink rubbed along his right pinky finger, and the fingers of his left hand were woven through his hair. There was a single wrinkle between his eyebrows, which her eyes lingered on for a moment before she turned her eyes to Hera, who was busy chewing on the end of her quill. She had gotten as far as writing her name on her parchment, which made Elizabeth grin a little. She’d offer to help as soon as she finished the second translation.
“I’ll be needing Montgomery’s Through the Sands: Eroding Ancient Runes,” Elizabeth said, scooting her chair away from the table. Draco looked over at the second passage and nodded in agreement.
“I’ll come with you, I’ll be needing it as well.”
Elizabeth gave curt nod, allowing him to follow her into the stacks. The shelves seemed to stretch on forever, and before long she felt far removed from the table where they’d been working. There were no other students. She could see only books as she searched for the right section.
The light was low, and the titles were hard to see. She knelt down beside the large dusty books, prying two copies of Montgomery’s text from the shelves. She smiled triumphantly, rising to her feet and pulling the heavy books up with her. When she looked up from the cover, her breath caught in her throat. Draco was standing so close to her that the books were pressed up against his chest.
Elizabeth hadn’t been this close to another person, to a man, since… Her mind struggled to bring up a memory, and then stopped trying as a dull throb reminded her of the headache that seemed to be constantly present. She briefly wondered if she should see that nurse at the hospital wing or mention the feeling to her aunt before her thoughts came back to Draco, examining her in the low light.
“Can I help you?” She tried to settle her breathing, attempting cool.
“How’s your arm?”
“Sore,” She replied, looking at him looking at her. She let her eyes move over his features. This wasn’t the first time that he had leaned over her in an attempt to draw her attention, but this was the first time she let herself really look at him. In most other instances, she’d been annoyed. He had been on the fringe of her existence, always seeming to interject in what felt like a concerted effort to disrupt, confuse, or annoy. He had something to add, something o question, almost every evening. She had even written to Bellatrix to complain of him as a middleman of sorts, adding that she was relieved to have her correspondence as a means to circumvent him. (Bellatrix had ignored the tangent in her reply, which hadn’t gone unnoticed.)
Something felt different after last night, and she could still feel the way his arms had felt carrying her through the forest.
She noticed he looked a little paler than when she had first met him at the beginning of the school year. There were small, purplish bags, most likely from lack of sleep, under his eyes. His cheekbones were hight, his chin pointed. But she was willing to admit there was something attractive about him. Perhaps it was the low light, or the warm dusty smell of the stacks in this section of the library. He felt inviting.
“It’ll be that way for a while,” He replied, still searching her fact. “I can remember.”
“Any recommendations for it?” She breathed lightly, wondering why he was so close to her if he wasn’t going to do more than recommend cold cream to her.
“Get use to it.” He smirked, “It’s only the beginning.”
“I can handle it.”
“I’d hope so, partner.” He drawled, his eyes pouring into hers.
“Didn’t Aunt Bellatrix write this morning?” She was suddenly aware that he knew something she didn’t know, and she didn’t like the feeling. He was immediately less inviting, immediately annoying again. “Perhaps her letter is on the way still, she may write slower than my father.” He withdrew a square of parchment from his cloak, handing it to her.
She exchanged the texts for the letter, opening it under his gaze and scanning over its contents until she found the only paragraph that seemed to matter.
He has instructed me to inform you immediately that your task will henceforth be a shared task. I’ve attempted to convince our Lord that you have made great progress on your own, and that making a change at this point could have a detrimental affect on your work. I will spare you the details of the counterargument. Know only that He favors the girl, and it will behoove you to make best the situation as it now presents itself.
Your aunt will be writing the girl to provide additional details, and I suggest you arrange a time to communicate with her as soon as possible. I’ve also been told to inform you that this should be considered an honor, given his preference for the girl. Your success will be rewarded, I’m told, with the thing you want. (He would not elaborate.)
Your mother and I know that you understand the deep importance this holds for our family. For you.
The letter went on, elaborating on this importance. The weight on Draco, which many of the students in their house had speculated upon over these last few months, was immediately clear.
“Did you know?” Draco’s voice was a little sharper now, and he leaned a little closer. Her mind was working quickly, moving across the night and Bella’s earlier letters. She had held a private audience with the Dark Lord last night, and he had told hre of the task.
You’ll have the opportunity to prove yourself soon…. I know the important position I hold for you…. I know you will not disappoint me…. When I witness your success, my plans will unfold for you. I will train you—father you…. When you succeed.
“No,” she lied, and she could swear the mark on her arm burned more than before. Draco’s eyes crawled across her face looking for a contradiction. His lips were so close to hers that she could feel his exhalations like a soft breeze brushing against her.
“Now, tell me, do you think this is an honor?”
For a brief moment, she wondered again if he was going to kiss her—or if he was at least thinking about kissing her. Then she felt annoyed with herself, and more annoyed with him. She narrowed her eyes and pressed the letter against his chest, tugging unsuccessfully at the books in his hands. They were somehow closer, and something flashed across Draco’s eyes but he didn’t back down.
“How did you sit across a table from me for hours with this in your pocket, waiting to get to me like this in the back of the library?”
“I’ve been thinking about getting you in the back of the library for weeks now.” He smirked arrogantly at her, finally pulling away. She glared, frustrated as a blush spread across her cheeks. She hoped he didn’t notice, but she knew he did when his smirk began to look more like a grin. “Looks like you’ve been thinking about it, too.”
She rolled her eyes, trying to tug the books back again. He still wouldn’t give them back, and his grin widened. “Come off it, Draco. I think we should be getting back. You can continue to harbor mixed emotions for me at the table.”
Draco excused himself, with his copy of Montgomery’s text and his translations, after they returned. He was still smirking, and Hera watched him go.
As soon as he rounded the corner, she snapped her eyes back to Elizabeth and said, “You were gone for awhile.”
“Yep,” She replied, cracking the book open and examining the table of contents.
“Did you have a good time snogging?”
Two wildfire blushes burst across her cheeks. “We were not snogging.” The British word felt weird across her tongue, and she wondered if she sounded less convincing because of the novelty of the word. “We were just talking. He asked about my arm.”
“I’m sure,” Hera nodded, chuckling. “I hear he’s good, for the record. And you’d make a bloody perfect couple. So blond, so adept and smirking and scoffing.” She paused, looking down at her essay before adding, “Would make me sick, the two of you.”
Elizabeth laughed, still blushing and replying, “I don’t think you have to worry about any potential illness in your future. I would be stupid to get involved with him.”
Credits: All original characters by me. Canon characters and setting by J.K. Rowling.
Chapter 15: Bonfire Night
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“It’s a commemoration of the failed Gunpowder Plot.” Hermione stated matter-of-factly. “On November 5th, 1605, Guy Fawkes was arrested while guarding explosives that had been placed below the House of Lords in Westminster. He was a member of the Gunpowder Plot, which had planned to assassinate King James I by exploding the House during the State Opening. People across London lit fires to celebrate the survival of the King—and a few months later, the Crown made observance of the day a national holiday.”
“So you’re saying we have to celebrate with a festive bonfire, and perhaps some spiked cider and dancing?”
“I suppose,” Hermione replied, returning the smile she received from Evelyn. “Given the fliers.” She motioned towards the bright red, orange, and yellow fliers that papered the bulletin board in the common room. They had appeared overnight, and—from what Evelyn could gather—were a surprise to the majority of the students. Hermione had mentioned they hadn’t had a celebration, organized in this way, since their fourth year. The only exception seemed to be the Headless Hunt, which Hermione described as something else entirely.
From the fliers, Evelyn had discerned the entire school was welcome to celebrate Guy Fawkes Day—or Bonfire Night—on the grounds with a large bonfire near the lake, music, and dinner on the grounds. The fifth fell on a Wednesday this year, but classes were canceled for the celebration. When Evelyn asked her aunt about it at lunch, Minerva only said, “It’s a national day of thanksgiving.”
No one seemed to recall a time when the holiday had been celebrated at the school before, but—with the cancelation of classes and the added festivities—no one seemed to mind. Evelyn was looking forward to the first school-wide celebration, as there had been many at the Academy, but she could tell Hermione had her reservations. When she mentioned Hermione’s attitude towards Bonfire Night at dinner the evening before, Ron rolled his eyes and interjected, “It’s about the classes, isn’t it? Hermione hates missing the classes.”
The three women sat, chairs pulled closed to the fire in Minerva’s apartments. Each felt compelled to turn their eyes from the others as they passed through the details one more time.
“The celebration will begin with dinner, and go until midnight. We have planned to weave triggers throughout the evening, hoping to culminate in a complete erosion of the charm. Based on the studies you sent me, this seems like the safest method.”
“And there are other safety measures in place?”
“The Order will be stationed throughout the celebration, to maintain the crowd and keep everyone safe.”
“Are you worried about the vulnerability of the celebration? In regards to an attack, I mean?”
“No, it would be nearly impossible for an attack to take place on the grounds.”
“And Dumbledore has approved this?”
“And you feel confident about the execution of the plan?”
“Yes,” Minerva said flatly. Almost convincingly.
“Hermione,” As Demeter said her name, both of the older women turned their eyes to the younger woman, “You know where to be?”
“Yes.” She looked up at the women, fire dancing across their faces. They looked sad, yet determined. There was something in Minerva’s face that Hermione had never seen there before.
Curt nods were exchanged, and an acknowledgment of the hour. Though everyone seemed ready to retire, they each hesitated. After a few moments of silence, Hermione asked the question that the two older women had hoped she wouldn’t, “What happens if it doesn’t work? Or… If it doesn’t go to plan?”
After lunch, Elizabeth and Hera sat on a knoll overlooking the lake. They watched in relative silence as Professor Flitwick and Professor McGonagall used their wands to construct a pyre. Logs and boards moved through the air, angling to fit together. They watched as Hagrid continued to bring more wood from the edge of the forest, Fang bounding back and forth with him.
“Seems a bit dangerous as holidays go.”
“The burns are typically controlled,” Hera noted, “It’s the effigies you’ve got to worry about.”
“The effigies?” It was a word Elizabeth recognized, but couldn’t ever remember using. When it came out of her mouth, it sounded as if she was trying it out—confused like a child just learning to spell.
“Dummies, you know, of Guy Fawkes. They burn effigies on Bonfire Night. They burn effigies of the traitor.”
Evelyn watched as students unfolded themselves from the benches alongside the house tables after the dinner feast had ended. As soon as the last student moved from their seat, the tables disappeared and music began to play. Professors had gathered around the pyre and were preparing to light it. A few Hufflepuffs started to dance, moving a little awkwardly but keeping time with the rhythm. Luna Lovegood spun around in circles by herself, her arms outstretched.
The scene felt familiar to her, and she felt a brief flutter of joy. Everyone looked happy, moving along to the music in the cool November air. She had worried it might rain, but she didn’t feel worried anymore. She began to move towards Hermione, who was standing with Ron and Harry chatting and observing the crowd.
“Thinking of dance?” She asked, inserting herself into the conversation. Harry eyed her, his face unreadable, and Ron looked red.
“Family history has illustrated that Ron dancing always leads to disaster.” A voice quipped from over Evelyn’s shoulder. The voice felt familiar, too, and something fluttered in the back of her brain as she turned around to find George Weasley standing there, grinning at the four of them.
Ron was attempting to rebuttal, but was overridden by Evelyn’s voice. “What are you doing here?”
“Not at all. It’s nice to see you again.”
Evelyn turned back to the group and moved a little to the left, allowing George to enter the small circle they had formed. She felt herself smiling more and more as her eyes moved over George’s face, watching his mouth moved as he replied that he had been on an assignment for the Order in the area and that Fred was around as well.
The Order. She turned the phrase over in her mind, the fluttering coming back again. She wrinkled her nose slightly, looking from George to Hermione in an attempt to ascertain if this was a word she should be familiar with. Her eyes moved over Harry briefly, and she realized he was looking at her. His eyes seemed to be canvasing her face. She could feel her cheeks redden, and she wondered how long he’d been looking at her. She met his gaze, and he didn’t blink. He just kept looking. She broke the stare, unable to maintain it.
Elizabeth, Hera, and Rhett sat in a row on a bench near the pyre. Flitwick stood nearby, his back turned to them. He was beginning to light the pyre. They were trying to see how many swigs of Firewhiskey they could snag from the flask Rhett had brought before Flitwick turned around. They’d probably each had at least eight swigs, but Elizabeth was starting to lose count. She was preoccupied, trying to determine whether or not the night was warmer than she had anticipated or if the Firewhiskey was making her warmer. The scarf she’d wrapped around her neck was starting to feel too warm.
Rhett took a long swig from his flask and then stowed it inside his jacket pocket. “I’d like to dance. Might one of you join me?” He was sitting between the two girls, and offered his hands outwards simultaneously.
“I don’t think you could handle us both out there.” Hera chided, knocking her shoulder against Rhett’s.
“It’s professor-approved dancing only.” Rhett retorted, waving at Flitwick as he turned and eyed the three of them as well as the other students arranged on the bench. Elizabeth and Hera chuckled as soon as the Charms professor turned back around.
“Go on without me,” Elizabeth motioned, “I’ll dance the next one.”
Hera and Rhett exchanged a look. “You don’t mind?”
“Just one condition—leave the flask.”
Evelyn allowed George to lead her onto into the dancing crowd of students. She’d been surprised when he offered his hand, asking if he was sure and if he could step away from his work. He had tossed aside her worries, only grinning the infectious grin he always seemed to be wearing.
They started moving to the beat, chatting briefly and pointing out other couples that were upstaging them on the floor. He was much taller than her, and often had to lean forward, stooping slightly, to bring his ear close to her lips to hear her. Each time he did so, his sandalwood scented hair filled her nose. She loved the smell, and the way he talked to her so easily.
She kept making conversation, encouraging him to lean down towards her. The smell was better and better each time, and it slowly started recalling something to her. She was starting to get a headache from it, but she’d gotten use to ignoring the dull throbbing at the base of her skull and didn’t want to stop dancing. She liked the way his eyes looked back into hers. They didn’t have the same searching look that Harry’s had, or the bored speculative look that Ron’s had. They just looked at her like they enjoyed her.
The music shifted into a slower rhythm and the crowd thinned a little while other couples draped arms around one another.
“Well?” Evelyn hesitated in front of him, looking off to where they’d left Hermione, Harry, and Ron. They were still there, warming in the light of the bonfire.
“I’m not afraid of a slow dance.” He offered his arms out to her and she smiled, taking a step forward. She draped her arms around his neck, just able to clasp her hands behind his neck. He was tall, rosy cheeked in the firelight.
She liked the way he carried himself, and moved with her—graceful and confident. As they swayed, he continued to keep up the lively conversation, this time not needing to lean down for her to hear him. All she could smell was sandalwood.
Elizabeth swayed back and forth in the arms of Draco Malfoy. The slow song had just started when his request to dance left his mouth, and she was surprised to find he rather deft on the dance floor.
“So, what is this?” She smiled a little too toothily, the empty flask knocking against her side in her jacket pocket. “An opportunity for planning?”
He smirked, his eyes burning like sapphires in the firelight. She felt a little struck by those eyes, or by the amount of Firewhiskey she had consumed. Hera and Rhett hadn’t come back and, after a few dances passed, she had a feeling they might not. They looked rather comfortable on the dance floor, thrashing a little recklessly and laughing. She didn’t think they’d mind if she finished the flask—so she had.
“No, not tonight,” He continued smirking, “Seemed more like an opportunity for back-of-the-library references.”
“Oh,” She drawled out the word, feeling a blush on her face for the second time this week. She pulled back against his arms, which she found to be firmly on her waist. He didn’t let go. Instead he pulled her a little closer.
She could feel the winds picking up, but she still felt warm. She could feel the pins she’d placed in her hair loosen, her curls reaching across her face in the winds. She didn’t care. She looked past her hair at Draco, her eyes locking in with his. She smiled tentatively, unsure of his intentions. Her hands were a little tense on his shoulders, but she was surprisingly comfortable dancing with him.
“Lord, you’re beautiful.” He whispered. He wasn’t smirking. She could tell he was being serious.
“Lord, you’re drunk.” She mimicked him, chuckling a little. He didn’t chuckle, and he was still serious. She could feel her shoes sinking into the grass and her head was starting to ache. She leaned on him a little more, and could feel how close they were to one another.
He didn’t reply, didn’t rebuke her or roll his eyes. He just kissed her.
There was pain in her head, and a chill on her skin, stretching across her shoulder blades and settling near the dull throb she was feeling. The two sensations combatted one another. She wondered if she tasted like whiskey, or if she was teetering because his hands felt tight on her hips, pulling her closer so there was no space between them.
She couldn’t remember when she started kissing him back, but she didn’t regret it.
George led Evelyn to a bench near Hermione and her friends, which Hermione acknowledged with a nod and watchful eye. She sent her friend a furtive smile, which was hesitantly returned. She made a mental note to ask what the hesitance was rooted in, and she briefly looked forward to returning to her dorm later that night to gush a little about dancing with George.
They easily slid back into conversation on the bench, and Evelyn could feel George’s charm and chuckle pulling her in. She didn’t even think about returning to the dance floor. Instead, she felt her sides begin to split from his crazy stories and she started asking questions about the products he was developing with Fred.
He asked her questions about her life before Hogwarts, about the crazy stories he was sure she was keeping under wraps so as not to intimidate her new classmates. She tried to tell stories, but they came out jilted and she started to feel woozy. The ache in her head was more prominent, and the harder she strained to tell George about her life before the Hogwarts, the more fluttery and foreign her brain felt.
She wondered if she was dehydrated. She hadn’t felt this way since last New Years when…. She’d been dancing, and May gave her too many shots, and Theo’s arms had been around her, and she—couldn’t remember the rest.
George turned away from her momentarily, calling out to Ron who couldn’t quite hear him over the music. He was attempting to reenact a Christmas gag from their childhood, and insisted he needed Ron for accuracy.
While his back was to her, she took the opportunity o steady herself on the bench. She felt her hands curl around the edge. This felt worse than being drunk.
A different music started playing and it reminded her of Maryland.
Sandalwood filled her head. A bolt cracked through her mind and she realized the smell was familiar because of her father, who had worn sandalwood aftershave. She could feel her heart rate increase. She was warmer than before, and she wondered where these memories were coming from. She suddenly felt panicked.
This isn’t right, Evelyn thought, instinctually feeling as if she couldn’t remember. She couldn’t picture herself there—in Baltimore—at home. The aching in her head was spinning outward, and she’d never had a migraine like this before. It suddenly felt like every tendon of every muscle in her body had been tied into knots.
She suddenly felt like she couldn’t be here anymore. The fire was too hot; the music seemed to be getting louder. George was leaning over her, asking if she was okay, and she couldn’t respond. She hated the pressure of his hand on her shoulder, and he smelled—
She could see her father leaning over her, nudging her, whispering, Wake up, Evie. It’s Christmas. Santa’s come, and Elizabeth is already downstairs trying to restrain herself.
She bolted upward, unsteady on her feet.
Hermione was moving towards her, but she must have been wearing a new perfume because suddenly she smelled honeysuckle and another memory sprung into her conscious mind. Her mother, hugging her after school, reassuring her, It’s a new school. You’ll make friends. And, in the meantime, you have Elizabeth.
She pushed against Hermione, trying to move the smell away from her. The music was louder now, and she wanted to move away from it, but she couldn’t stand well and she felt dizzy. People were talking, but she felt nauseous. Her eyes began to brim with tears, and when George reached out to support her, she couldn’t push him away. She was too dizzy. Visuals started to dance across her eyes, and the fire felt more prominent—brighter, hotter, closer.
She could hear herself let out a sob, but she couldn’t feel herself sobbing. She didn’t feel connected to her body anymore.
The dull throb that had been radiating from the base of her neck was beginning to spread across her head. The music had shifted somewhat unexpectedly to a tune that felt distantly familiar. She pulled away from Draco, who hadn’t stopped kissing her through all the songs that had played. Even when they moved from the dance floor back to the bench, he had barely moved his lips from hers to look before he stepped. She’d thought he might have stepped into the bonfire if he wasn’t careful.
Her chest heaved, colliding with his as it rose rapidly. Before her eyes, white-hot visuals blurred her sight and she could feel the air getting heavier and thinner simultaneously.
“Are you okay?” Draco asked, his eyebrow arching.
Ellie tried to shake her head, but her equilibrium seemed off. She leaned back from him, but almost tumbled off of the bench. She hadn’t been hit with liquor like this before; something wasn’t right.
His hands wrapped around her waist, steadying her. His hands felt so tight on her body that they felt like they were cutting the oxygen off to her brain. She trashed against him, unable to restrain herself and not knowing what to do. Every bone in her body felt dysfunctional.
His eyes burned through her and, under his gaze, her stomach turned circles as her eyes darted back and forth across his face. His mouth was moving, but she couldn’t hear him anymore. His lips looked like someone else’s, and his face wasn’t his own anymore.
Chapter 16: Unforeseen Side Effects
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Please notes that this chapter may include scenes or allusions to violence that may be upsetting to some readers.
Credits: Chapter image by me. Characters and setting by J. K. Rowling. Also, the line "Either must die at the hand of the other" was taken directly from Rowling.
“Few side effects of the amnesia charm are known. Healers across the wizarding world are constantly researching this charm, among others, but discoveries in medical spell work are rare. I must warn you,” Dumbledore paused, reclining in his chair. “The effects that are known are extremely unpleasant. When the memories come back—as I’m certain they will, given your age and experiences—they will come in an onslaught. Witches and wizards have been known to experience severe emotional trauma, post-traumatic stress disorder, mental instability, and—in some cases—permanent insanity. Last year, a witch fell into a coma after having her memories triggered and she died three weeks later.”
“Yes,” he looked grave. “Not from the return of the suppressed memories. Survivors have reported that they were forced to relive many of their memories. This is the process that causes insanity, and this has driven some to commit suicide. Even after the memories are processed, side effects such as tantrums, spasms, seizures, and epilepsy have been reported. Survivors have said it’s difficult to explain the process, and studies have shown the effects and their duration are difficult to determine.”
Dumbledore paused before asking, “You understand the severity of this, don’t you?”
Evelyn nodded, turning her eyes to her sister before look back into those half-moon-framed eyes.
As she looked at the headmaster, the scene began to fade. Everything waned away until she was left sitting in her chair in the dark. The space around her was dark, darker than the blackest night she’d ever experienced.
As her brain made the connection to that black night, the memory was suddenly reconstituted around her. She was nine years old, and struggling to build the fire at the cabin her father had reserved for them in the Scottish Highlands. Her mother was sitting at a table near the kitchen area playing chess with her sister.
It was like a dream. She could tell it wasn’t real or, more accurately, it wasn’t real in the present tense. She could see the remembered scene through her eyes, and out of her body simultaneously. She could think outside of the memory, recalling that vacations like this had been typical when she was a child. Her parents had already divorced, but they maintained that they were still friends. They went about life as a family still—until her mother had relocated them to Maryland.
In fact, she realized suddenly, this was the last family vacation they had taken before the move. Her father had planned it for their Easter holiday, and her mother had thought it would be a good opportunity to broach the relocation with him. She hadn’t committed yet and she wasn’t sure what she wanted to do, and then—
She looked up from the fire as an owl swooped through the door, dropping a letter into her father’s lap. He was reading the newspaper, and folded it carefully before taking up the letter. She could see him reading slowly at first, then faster, his eyes devouring the words. With each word, the muscles in his jaw tensed.
“When were you going to tell me?” His voice was low when he finally spoke. It had been awhile since the family had conversed, and his voice cracked. “Athena, when? This week?”
Her mother didn’t need to know what the letter had communicated. Evelyn sat stupefied on the hearth. She was too cold, her knees hurt from her position, and she needed her father to help her light it, but she knew not to interrupt. Not to move.
“Or next, perhaps?” Her father continued. The hand holding the letter was shaking. “After we’re done with this family charade?”
“Ian, don’t,” Her mother eyed Elizabeth first, and then Evelyn. “I was going to tell you. I haven’t accepted; I wanted to make the decision together; I wanted—“
“That’s not what this says.” His hand shook more and his voice cracked again as he got louder. “Moody writes to ask if I’ll be relocating, or if he can count on me to continue our work here.”
“Moody had no right—“
“No right! Right! What’s right here?”
She stood up, taking a few steps toward him, and Evelyn wondered if she would kneel beside his chair and talk to him in the soothing voice she used when Evelyn was nervous and tired. Before she could do anything of the sort, the chair was abandoned. Her father looked at her mother the way angry drivers looked at other angry drivers on the motorway.
“What else does he say?” She asked, but he didn’t answer. “Nothing has been decided.”
“Is this some sort of revenge? Is that what you’re playing at? I left you, and now you’re leaving me.” The letter was becoming more and more crumbled in his hand, and with each exchange Athena looked more hurt.
“I would never do that to you. I planned—“
“You’re a petty bitch, Athena.”
Evelyn recognized that she was trapped in her body, forced to swallow down memories. She couldn’t wake up. She couldn’t even really dictate her actions; she just moved through the memory as she remembered moving through—thinking as a sixteen year old, but moving as a nine year old.
It wasn’t a dream, she decided then, as she began to move rapidly through more memories—some in chronologically order, some pulled out from a murky unconscious where she’d left them forgotten.
It was a nightmare.
Elizabeth bit her lip as the scene faded. She hadn’t thought about that fight in a long time—longer than just the amnesia. She hated to compare it to other memories for fear that they too would resurrect themselves around her. She did wonder, though, if Evelyn was here too. Trapped in this place, feeling itchy and breathless.
Dumbledore had warned them, and they hadn’t been thoughtful enough—hadn’t been cautious enough. Her chest felt tight.
The table she’d been seated at with her mother had long faded, but she was still seated in her chair. Without a transition, though, she was suddenly leaning against a cold wall at the Academy. Objects, time, space—they all moved without transition or without her acknowledgment. They were there, then gone. Her mind had free reign here to construct and deconstruct. It was disorienting. (She could see where insanity might come in.)
The wall she leaned against was familiar to her. It was just beyond the cafeteria door, and the sounds of lunch rolled out from there. She knew Evelyn was inside, probably sitting with Lacey Coupe, May Davis, Bobby Brown, and Devon and Theodore Roberts. Her sister went everywhere with them—floating down hallways, talking in hushed tones in the study hall commons, laughing at the football stadium.
Elizabeth went everywhere with no one. She claimed perhaps one friend, Khan Stewart, who was always willing to share his cigarettes and knew a guy who knew a guy who could score them something a little stronger when she fancied it. Khan was a good friend, she couldn’t complain in that regards. But she could in others.
Her father hadn’t written or called in weeks.
Her mother had taken to burying herself in work, nesting among confidential documents and dossiers in her office late into the night.
Evelyn had fully shrugged her off, really only speaking to her about dueling or making strained conversation at the dinner table on the rare occasion the family shared a meal. Though Evelyn had been distancing herself for years now, reporting to her mother that it was simply because they had different interests when, in early adolescence, Elizabeth had complained she was being excluded, Elizabeth knew the final straw had been her own actions.
Sitting there against the wall, she could still see the look of surprise and terror on Devon and Theodore’s faces after she’d taken out her wand and moved it so quickly that Bobby couldn’t defend himself. He was on the ground before any of them could respond, the profanities he’d been sending her way barely dry on his lips. Maybe she’d started it… Calling them Mudbloods, insisting her sister was only offering them charity by stooping to befriend them… But he’d taken it to another place.
She rationalized that she couldn’t blame Evelyn for distancing herself after that. But somehow that didn’t stop her from doing so.
Khan came through the double doors of the cafeteria, spotting her and pulling her to her feet wordlessly. He had that look in his eyes when he needed a smoke.
As she followed him outside, she wondered if she apologized to her sister—if she opened up for a moment to talk about their parents, her political views, what was important to her—if she could regain her. A part of her wanted to.
But, then she remembered the things Evelyn had said after she’d seen Bobby in the nurse’s office, bandaged and unconscious. You think you can act this way just because of ancestry is different than his? You think that makes you better? You’re a coward. You’re horrible. I will never forgive you for this—neither will mom, or dad.
It was that last bit that stung the most. This elusive father who never seemed to be as interested in Elizabeth as he was in Evelyn, who could fly a broom at six, liked to watch Quidditch games, was curious about his approach to dueling, and who seemed to have inherited his view of the world. Elizabeth hated brooms and sports. She didn’t know how to ask him questions. She never offered him coffee when he came to visit and mom wasn’t home. He made her quiet, with his quiet observations and blistering gaze.
She plucked the cigarette from Kahn’s lips, and inhaled deeply. She could go on with Evelyn, without approval. She didn’t need them. She didn’t need anyone. Not even Kahn, who was convenient and nice and likeable but also annoyingly servile.
She had been given a one-week suspension after she attacked Bobby, despite her objections and her mother’s attempt to pull some strings. She’d spent most of the time sleeping. Evelyn left homework for her outside of her bedroom door each afternoon, refusing to knock.
But she could remember, still, a voice had come to her. At first, she’d thought it was through the door—but when she opened it up, no one was there. A pile of untouched books, an empty hallway. The voice slithered to her, muttering riddles. As Helen did Troy… Clytemnesra… Betrayed as she was betrayed… Either must die at the hand of the other.
She hadn’t told anyone about the voice. At first, she thought she was dreaming—then she thought she was crazy. But it had come back since then, once, twice, offering her something not quite self-evident. She’d turned the pieces over again and again, trying to make sense of the riddle.
The previous night, the voice had introduced a new topic.
Evelyn blinked into the darkness a few times. That wasn’t my memory was all she could think. In all the other ones, she’d had a space to occupy—but in that last one, it was like she’d entered another’s memory as if in a pensieve. She’d gone into one once, when her aunts had shared some memories from her grandmother after she passed. She felt disoriented, nauseous. She felt bitter. She wanted out. Couldn’t she just take everything she’d suppressed, and walk away?
The same memory seemed to reconstruct itself, but from a different angle. It came back to her quickly, and she knew then that Elizabeth would experience what she had just experienced. Another unforeseen side effect.
She was inside the cafeteria, following Lacey to their usual table. Although she loved her classes, she loved lunch as it was always an opportunity to catch up, unload, and refresh. She slide into a seat next to Theo, briefly making eyes at him, before turning to Lacey to see if she’d want the mushrooms that had come on the cafeteria salad that day.
She could feel Theo lean his body closer towards her, still not leaving his conversation with his brother but acknowledging her wordlessly. She couldn’t help smiling as she moved the mushrooms onto Lacey’s salad.
The smile dropped from face when she noticed Elizabeth outside the cafeteria, walking down the windowed hallway with Kahn Stewart. She hated that they were friends. Not only was Kahn known as a bit of a burnout, but he was oddly puritanical—which made him a hypocrite in her opinion. He was crude and immature.
She watched her sister move down the hallway with him, towards the door that led to the parking lot. They were probably going to smoke cigarettes before afternoon classes started. This she hated, too.
Elizabeth’s uniform hung about her, a little too big for her thinning frame. Evelyn’s mother hadn’t noticed that both of the girls seemed too small for their clothes. Elizabeth’s dirty blonde hair fell down her back, bouncing behind her like a satin train. She hadn’t seen her watching.
Evelyn couldn’t pinpoint the moment at which Elizabeth had changed so drastically or when their friends had become just Evelyn’s friends. She felt that it happened overnight; they weren’t interested in the same things. Elizabeth stopped coming outside with her. Lacey started asking her about her plans in a way that suggested singularity. No one seemed to object until they were so estranged it would have been forceful, difficult, to merge their worlds back together.
That moment had come when they were thirteen or fourteen. Now, at almost sixteen, things had escalated. She’d attacked Bobby—Evelyn hadn’t been there, but from what she’d been told, Bobby had caught them smoking in the boy’s bathroom and said something rude. She had told him, Theo, and Devon to go to hell—they were traitor Mudbloods who’d get what was theirs. Bobby had crossed a line then, he admitted, saying he wouldn’t trust a whore like her to judge his fate.
She’d attacked him… And part of Evelyn understood why, but it was the violence she’d used that infuriated her. It was too much, too violent, too aggressive. From what Theo had told her, even Khan looked nervous. And Elizabeth had just stood there and smiled, waiting proudly while Devon summoned a teacher.
Evelyn shook her head as Elizabeth disappeared beyond the windows. She raised an apple to her lips, and bit into it, turning her mind from this different, strange person—this person who wasn’t at all like the sister she’d known.
Elizabeth felt itchy and panicked when the darkness returned. If she could see Evelyn’s memories, then Evelyn could see hers—and there were things that she didn’t want Evelyn to see. Her body felt hot, and she felt more constrained than she had before. This was hell.
She almost laughed aloud when the thought of hell brought her suddenly to her bedroom in their house in Maryland. She was standing at the window, watching her mother walk purposefully around the perimeter of the yard, casting a concealment charm, a security charm, and a few other things for good measure, she had said. Her mother and her father had appeared on a list leaked to government officials who were said to be targets of the newly returned Death Eaters. Not many incidents had been reported stateside yet, but Elizabeth had noticed more owls coming from her father in the last three weeks than he had sent in the last three months.
They’d seen the news—print, radio, even television networks were discussing the recent events. British Ministry Continues to Deny Potter Claims. Resurrection and Recurrence in Britian—Is It True? British Ministry Talks US, Canada Alliance Behind Closed Doors.
No one was confirming anything.
But the voice whispered to her still, it’s true… It’s true… My Helen of Troy, believe. Trust… I’m here for you. I’m here.
Evelyn could feel her stomach tightening as it had the last time she’d left her sister’s memory, but this time was different. It was a deeper feeling in her gut. She wanted to scream, Why hadn’t Elizabeth said anything? Why hadn’t she asked for help?
How long had the voice been coming to her sister, pulling her away from their family and perverting her? She’d built up these prejudicial walls, but Evelyn had always thought it was just a thing that happened to teenagers—the kind of changes mothers complained about that would fade with time. But, no, now she could see that they were fueled by something bigger than Khan Stewart. Something had crept into her sister’s life while no one was looking.
Even now, as they had paraded through the flood of childhood memories together, she hadn’t seen it coming. She had seen almost every moment of their lives, and then suddenly the voice was there—without question or concern, Elizabeth had accepted it’s presence in her life like wanted company. Maybe it had been with her before, maybe some memories weren’t shared or some had slipped through without being properly processed. (There was no guidebook. She had no real idea or concept of this was supposed to work, of what was normal or abnormal. This wasn’t Arithmacy; she couldn’t study this.)
Her mind was moving quickly, trying to process the gaps in logic or time, but she knew she was just guessing. As the memories became more recent, each felt longer and more detailed. They were closer. Maybe there would be something in one that was yet unseen that would explain to her when this had started, and to what end. She felt an aching need to confirm the trust in Elizabeth that had been placed there—since birth, since undergoing amnesia, since everything had changed and they were suddenly, momentarily, allies again.
A contradictory thought nagged at the back of her mind. Perhaps Elizabeth had wanted her memories suppressed for a different reason… Perhaps… Perhaps.
She moved through two more memories—suddenly, another blow coming to her gut. The first was hers—her mother making her a secret keeper for Grimmaud Place, the safe house they were instructed to go to if anything were to happen. The second was her sister’s—her father making her a secret keeper for his new flat, the safe house their parents would use in the event they needed to separate.
The perhaps that had been egging her seemed to click into place now. Bile stirred in her stomach, and she felt sick. The memories weren’t all back, some felt dizzy and confused, but she knew then—it had been Elizabeth, and hiding the prophecy wasn’t her only concern.
A small tingle of regret shook Elizabeth’s pride as the memory faded, and she knew Evelyn knew. If they were seeing this together, she knew. She’d had to know.
The consequences of her actions were regrettable; she was willing to admit that. He had told her that his followers wouldn’t harm them, and he had been wrong. She could remember that clearly, but she could also remember clearly the anger he had conveyed to her. Even months later while she was at the castle and settling into the Slytherian House, stories spread. Bellatrix confirmed them later. He’d killed the men who had gone beyond his orders. That memory was clear, sitting beyond the effects of the amnesia charm and in her stock of memories from that between-time, when she had forgotten why she’d gone to him but still felt compelled and intrigued.
He had been furious when he realized what she’d undergone. He looked into her mind, and found it blank. He dug deeper though—and when he resurfaced and gave her credit for the choice she’d made. Evelyn had been weak, wanting a way to bypass her grief. But she had been strategic, wanting a way to shift blame from herself for the betrayl. Bypassing her emotions, relieving herself from the burden of her shitty memories from the Academy and her upbringing was only a benefit. She had kept him safe, he acknowledged, and he rewarded her for it.
She looked at the mark on her arm, and the regret slipped away.
Evelyn was driving her car down the familiar side streets that led from Lacey’s house to hers. The windows were down, and the June air was warm. She was singing along to the radio, trying to stem the feelings of guilt that were brewing in her stomach for staying out past curfew and for leaving in the first place. Her mom had become increasingly strict as she received more letters—not just from her dad now, but also from her aunts and her mother’s friends. Owls were constantly coming and going, and the worry line on her mother’s forehead had deeped. She hadn’t wanted Evelyn to go out that night. School had ended, and a sudden influx of students into the neighborhoods made the streets feel uneasy. It was obvious her mother knew things that she didn’t know, but Evelyn didn’t care—she didn’t want a war overseas to affect her summer. At first, she’d thought the kisses she’d snuck to Theo were worth it, but alone in the car now she wondered if she should have been more cautious. She knew she’d have to talk to her mom, and they’d have to reach some kind of understanding—she needed more information if she was expected to be cautious. She felt that she deserved to at least know what was making all the adults in her life so uneasy.
She parked in the drive, and got out of the car. It wasn’t until she was a few steps closer to the door that she realized it was open. The lights were off, and the street felt abnormally quiet. The most prominent noise was the sound of the grass shifting below her sandles as she took another step forward.
When she crossed into the house through the front door—a door they rarely used as they almost always came and went from the attached garage—she choked out a hello. Her voice sounded foreign, fearful and raspy. She walked around the first floor, but there wasn’t anything to look at. Everything was the way she’d left it. When she turned her attention to the stairs, she noticed the air looked hazy there. A soft glow came and went, but no one answered her when she called out again.
The smell of nicotine intensified as she moved up the stairs. She saw her sister before Elizabeth saw her. She was sitting on the floor outside the bathroom door. A faint smell of bile mixed with the nicotine, which wafted from the cigarette in Ellie’s hand. There were a few discarded butts next to her, some of them only partially smoked. One had burned a hole in the carpet. Mom is going to be furious, she thought.
“Elizabeth? What are you doing?” She was whispering, but she didn’t know why.
Elizabeth’s eyes looked at her, searching for recognition. She looked detached, surprised. “Evelyn?”
“Yeah, it’s me,” She walked closer, crouching down and pushing the dirty hair out of her sister’s face. It was the first time they’d touched in a long time, and Evelyn felt self-conscious about it as soon as she pulled her hand away. She felt as if she’d overstepped. “What happened? Are you okay?”
With her hair moved away from her face, Evelyn could see a dark bruise had formed along Elizabeth’s cheekbone. Her lip was cut, but otherwise she looked okay. She didn’t respond though, which worried Evelyn.
Frightful eyes shot up towards her, but she still didn’t say anything. Evelyn’s heart was pounding, and her hand came up to Elizabeth’s shoulder to try to rouse her attention. “Elizabeth?”
“I can’t—“ Her eyes flickered towards the bedroom door, and Evelyn realized that she’d been crying. She followed her gaze, noticing too that some of the photos hung in the hallway were eskew. One of two had been knocked down completely, and there was glass littering the carpet.
“I’m going to have a look. Stay here.” She didn’t wait for her sister to acknowledge her. She pulled out her wand, creeping quietly towards the end of the hallway. The sliver under the door showed that some light was one, but it didn’t look like the yellow light of a lamp. She thought about calling out to her mom, but was too afraid to say anything. If someone was still here, she didn’t want them to know she was coming. She wanted to have an advantage.
When she threw open the door of her mother’s bedroom, wand aimed and eyes searching for a target, she was first struck by the way the night air felt—and how abnormal it was to feel it there. It took her a moment to process the fact that the western corner of the room had been blown away. Scraps of familiar wood lingered on the bed and floor alongside glass and plaster fragments. Feathers from her mother’s pillows looked like piles of snow alongside the bed. The moon shone bright and almost full overhead.
Her eyes searched the room, still looking for a hidden offender. Her mother’s dresser had toppled into the vanity, breaking the tall mirror as it had been thrown backwards against the wall. The drawers were all pulled out, knocked over on the floor. Underwear and socks were strewn about. They must have been looking for something.
As her eyes moved across the dresser, she realized there was something stuck underneath it. At first, she thought maybe it was a pile of clothes or a chair—but then she saw the hand, stretched out, and the wand just beyond it’s fingers. Red curls were rumpled near the shoulder, massaged by the wind that blew freely through the room.
A terrible sound escaped from her as she moved her wand, quickly displacing the dresser and freeing her mother. Her mother’s body, her brain corrected her as it immediately processed what she couldn’t intellectually grasp at that moment. Her thoughts started to fly, and she couldn’t breath. She could see now why Elizabeth was catatonic. As she came to her mother’s side, she instinctively reached for her wrist. There was no pulse. There were no marks on her mom that she could see, and she assumed she’d been hit with a killing curse—and that she’d fought gallantly before succumbing.
She didn’t cry at that moment. She was stunned, holding her mother’s wrist and trying to decide what had to happen next. For a moment she wondered if Elizabeth had done this, but she insisted it couldn’t have been her. Elizabeth had been planning on going out for a drive with Khan when she left, and she assumed she’d just arrived home before her.
She straightened up, trying to think of what should happen next when it became darker. A cloud had shifted over the moon, and she looked up to see if it was going to rain.
It wasn’t a cloud though, and it wasn’t going to rain.
Overhead, the Dark Mark lay across the moon.
Chapter 17: Stoics
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Please notes that this chapter may include scenes or allusions to violence that may be upsetting to some readers.
Credits: Chapter image by me. Characters and setting by J. K. Rowling. Also, the scenes referenced may be familiar as they allude to the Battle of the Department of Mysteries, found in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. To read my take on what happens to Sirius after he passes through the Veil, please see my short story "Baptism: Through the Veil," which has been recently updated.
It was seven thirty-two in the morning on June 17th when the Castell sisters appeared on the kitchen floor of Grimmauld Place. They had never apparated that far alone before (and only had their permits), and they did not stick the landing. They knocked into the kitchen table, upsetting a few teacups and making a fair amount of noise. As secret keeper, Evelyn had led them in their apparition. It wasn’t a method of travel used often in the States, as even witches and wizards preferred to use public transit or drive—which her mother had claimed was “so very American.”
Evelyn winced, recalling her mother.
She was just getting to her feet when two men threw open the kitchen door, wands drawn. One looked at them with a high level of suspicion, glancing about the scene, and asking gruffly, “How did you get into my house?”
The other was Remus Lupin. His hand shrunk back, but he did not lower his wand. He seemed to understand immediately how they had come to be here, and from the look in his eyes Evelyn could tell that he understood their coming wasn’t a good thing.
“My mother was murdered, and I need you to warn my father.”
The words leapt from her lips matter-of-factly, and as soon as they were delivered—as soon as she had done her duty—she began to cry.
She cried while they verified their identity, and while the man who was introduced to her as Sirius Black made her tea. She cried while Elizabeth’s cuts were tended to, and they were separated for a “quick conversation,” which she understood to mean interrogation. She cried after her aunts were summoned—Minerva arriving first, looking confused and then sad. She cried when she overhead the adults, who were suddenly multiplying, talking in hushed voices about dispatching a small team of Order members to Maryland to evaluate the damage and retrieve her mother’s body.
She only stopped crying when the news arrived that they had been too late in warning her father.
Elizabeth had settled into stoicism. The memories had reached a point of familiarity that felt as natural as her own skin. She was just biding her time now, waiting to escape from this place. The only unfortunate turn was that she would have to endure the sentimentality of her sister in the meantime. All of Evelyn’s memories dripped with despair and loneliness—emotions that Elizabeth had gotten use to after years of feeling estranged from her family.
Memories continued to come and go. She remembered escaping to her room in the safe house, which she still didn’t know by name or location. She remembered seeing the single red rose that had been left for her there, and discovering that the voice was still there with her—thanking her for the role she had played. Something had been gained, despite the losses. She remembered crying hopelessly, feeling confused, guilty, and overwhelmed, but the voice reassured her. The voice knew she hadn’t expected her actions to lead to the death of her father—when that man had pushed her against the wall, bruising her face and splitting her lip, she’d been scared. She wasn’t going to tell. But the voice came then, too, and told her that her father would be saved if only they could retrieve something from him. The voice didn’t want to hurt her, his Helen of Troy. He wanted to save her. This had been done for her.
She remembered wiping her tears, placing the rose in water, and falling asleep.
The memories kept playing, but every time she began to feel a twinge of emotion, she looked at her forearm and felt reassured of her decisions. She had been embraced by the Dark Lord, and had been tasked to help Draco kill Albus Dumbledore. There was no going back. As soon as she escaped this place, she was done with the games. She was done with Evelyn.
The parade of Elizabeth’s memories faded, and Evelyn wondered if she was crying. Her physicality wasn’t clear to her, and she wasn’t even sure if she could cry in this space she occupied. But if she could, she thought she was. Her chest hurt, and she felt short of breath.
The only way the Death Eaters could have located her father was if Elizabeth had told them, and she had told them, albeit with a little force and a little coaxing. Evelyn would have died for her parents. She would have rather died, if it had been her. She knew that now, and—alongside all these other memories—she’d never forget it. Elizabeth had betrayed them. Perhaps she hadn’t understood, perhaps she regretted it, but it didn’t matter. She was a traitor.
Evelyn felt more alone in this grief than she had the first time she’d experienced it. She knew the memories were closing in and that it wouldn’t be much longer, and she knew that if this was any indication of her waking mind that she hadn’t been driven to insanity. She almost had to thank her sister… It was the revelation of her crime that allowed Evelyn to focus on escaping this torment. She couldn’t confront her if she didn’t make it out; she couldn’t get justice if she lost her mind.
She felt herself transported to Grimmauld Place as another memory reconstructed itself. It was the day following their arrival, and she was sitting in the kitchen with Molly Weasley. Her mother had talked of the Weasley family in passing, and sometimes her father had mentioned them in his letters, but she’d never met them before. Molly had made her some eggs and toast, and sat quietly across the table from her sipping tea and trying to keep her eyes adverted as much as possible.
She wasn’t sure what time it was, but Elizabeth wasn’t awake and hadn’t come down from her room since entering it. Aunt Minerva had gone back to Hogwarts to teach, despite Molly’s objections, and Aunt Demeter had gone to talk to a few of her report friends in an effort to suppress the news of her brother-in-law’s murder. He was a relatively high profile auror, and Demeter knew she’d have to dole out a good number of favors to have any success.
Though nothing had been said to her outright, Evelyn could tell the Order was trying desperately to get ahead of the situation. She had briefly overheard an argument between her aunts the night before when she crept down from her bedroom in search of Demeter, who she had yet to see. They went back and forth about an attack on American soil being unprecedented and the fact that the team that had gone to their house hadn’t been able to deduce anything of importance. They would have to itemize the house and compare it to her father’s to see if anything was missing. This is a bloody mess, a mess, Demeter had shouted, and you just expect these girls to sit quietly and wait while we twiddle thumbs? We have to do something. We need to make decisions—not just for the Order, but also for them. They deserve action, to see us act. Minerva again laid out the facts, and when the conversation continued to swirl around in the same direction, Evelyn retreated. She couldn’t listen anymore.
A team had been dispatched to her father’s house to collect additional information that morning, Molly informed her. They hadn’t returned yet, but she sensed that this would be a small victory for Demeter.
Just as she was considering taking her plate to the sink, a house elf crept into the kitchen muttering to himself with strange delight, “Cissy is good to Kreacher, Cissy is so good to the House of Black.” Evelyn’s eyes followed him, and she noticed Molly’s did too. Molly stood up from her seat, watching the elf pass through. He didn’t seem to mind either of them.
“Why don’t you let me take that, dear,” Molly said softly, taking the plate from Evelyn without looking away from the elf.
It seemed like only a few minutes later there was a crack, followed by commotion in the front hall. Molly left the sink, where she’d been washing dishes by hand, and Evelyn followed her out, fearing more bad news.
“Oh Snivellus, how kind of you to stop by.” The man who had greeted her in her arrival and who had been introduced to her as Sirius Black offered this greeting over his newspaper to another man who had just arrived. Evelyn recognized him as one of the professors at her aunt’s school, but she didn’t think his name was Snivellus.
“This is not the time for school yard games, Black.” The man snapped. “Harry Potter was just caught in Dolores Umbridge’s office, insisting that Padfoot was in danger.” His voice seemed to crawl from his mouth, letters drawling as he looked down his nose at Sirius. He dropped the paper, standing and looking a little dumbfounded. Remus joined them in the room just as the professor was finishing his sentence. He exchanged glances with Sirius, each looking at the other with earnest discomfort.
“Did he say where?”
The professor shared all the details he had, and they confirmed what they could with Kreacher. Sirius was furious, cursing as he paced back and forth across the room. Then, for a moment, he was quiet. He stopped. He looked at Remus and said, “We’ve got to go after them. Round up everyone whose available—is the group back from Maryland yet?”
“No, and the other group is still searching Ian’s place. We’ll be a small number, and we don’t know what we’re walking in to…” Remus trailed off, “It’s a big risk.”
“A big risk?” Sirius barked out a laugh, “It’s Harry! It’s Harry, Remus. We’ve got to go, get everyone you can.”
The professor looked at them skeptically, but departed with a crack. As Order members began to appear in the room, it was clear he had done something to call them in. Evelyn watched as the room became more populated with people, and she didn’t speak out—even to those she recognized. She stood next to Molly, only hoping to gain as much information as she could. She didn’t quite follow what was happening, but she knew that someone was in trouble. Harry Potter was in trouble.
She knew the name; hell, everyone knew the name.
Before the group departed, they went over logistics. Sirius and Remus had their back turned to Evelyn, but she watched them intently and listened to their plans. The Department of Mysteries, the Ministry of Magic—they had their entrance planned, proposed a hypothetical exit if everything went smoothly.
“Remus, promise me,” Sirius had pulled his friend to the side, and their conversation was just within earshot. Evelyn strained to get every word. “You will bring Harry back, no matter the cost. Even if it means leaving me behind.” Remus began to object, but Sirius overrode him, “Tell Harry, whatever may happen, that this is not his fault. I need him to know that I would have done just the same—James would have done just the same for his friends.”
“I will tell him, I promise. But, Sirius—”
“No matter, my friend. I know you’ll do right by James, and by me. You were the best of us.” Sirius shook his hand roughly, and shortly after the group disappeared.
This time, when Evelyn’s memory faded, so too did the darkness. It began to ebb away at the edges, light slowly coming towards her. The space felt deconstructed, and she felt more disoriented now. She was no longer experiencing the out of body sensation that had come with each of these memories—now, she was fully returned to her body. The experience was deeply corporeal, and she had a level of sensation that wasn’t typical of her daily existence.
The sensation slowly transformed into pain, as her eyesight seemed to fail her and everything was blisteringly white. It was like the dark space she had occupied between memories had gone bottom up, and everything was upside down and inside out. She could feel her body falling, her stomach turning, and the pain intensified to a level she didn’t think she could endure. Thoughts of conquering the insanity left her, and she realized this might be the end of it—the last coherent thought she ever had.
The pain, the vision, the falling feeling reached a crescendo and plummeted down as objects formed in front of her eyes. Moving shapes that spoke and caused commotion. People, her brain thought, attempting to process what was happening. Her eyes worked overtime to pull these people into focus. First Hermione, then Minerva, and then a woman in a small white hat pushing them and others away. Hospital, she thought. Bed. Sheets. Each mundane thing crept back to her.
It was dark, then light again, and she realized she must have been blinking. Her eyes closed. It was dark again.
Author's Note: I just wanted to take a moment to thank everyone who has been reading this story as well as This Winter and the short stories, which I've recently completed revisions on. I'm happy to share that I had made great progress with this story (I've written through chapter twenty-four as of this afternoon, which is a chapter that I particularly look forward to sharing), and I'm hoping to update at least one chapter a week from this point forward. Some scenes come easier than others, and I've been trying to really focus on "showing" rather than "telling" as things continue to develop for Evelyn and Elizabeth.
Whenever I get stuck on this story, I work on edits to This Winter, so if you're a fan of that story please continue to check in with it. I can tell you that the storyline won't change much, but that the chapters may be longer and contain a few extended scenes or added scenes as I edit.
I hope you'll review if you feel like it or connect with me on Tumblr; I love hearing from you! If you're looking for other stories, in the meantime, I'd recommend Periphery, which I'm desperately waiting for an update for. (I mean seriously the storytelling is amazing; its so natural and beautiful in its language.) Check my "Currently Reading" list for more.
Chapter 18: Curious and New
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Credits: Chapter image by me. Characters and setting by J. K. Rowling.
There was a warm light ebbing nearby when she next woke—a candle, or a group of candles, that slowly eroded the darkness. The light bothered her, forcing her to blink several times as she tried to push off exhaustion. Her eyes felt dry, and she was irritated. The sheet that covered her was starchy and thin, and she couldn’t get comfortable anymore.
She pulled herself upward on her elbows after a few minutes of struggling, and surveyed her surroundings. It was nighttime. It was quiet. She was still in what she assumed was the Hospital Wing, though she’d never been there before. She wasn’t in a room, but white room dividers had partitioned off a small space for her. A few chairs were strewn about, and Harry Potter sat in one. He was staring at a bit of old parchment, his brow furrowed and his wand lit to aid the candlelight.
She didn’t know how to greet him, so she cleared her throat instead.
His eyes snapped from the parchment to hers, and he looked relatively shocked.
“You’re awake?” He croaked, eyes widening behind his round frames.
“Appears so.” She struggled to push herself backwards on the pillows so that she could sit up, but her body was sore. Her joints felt stiff. Harry muttered something, touching his wand to the parchment before standing to adjust the pillows for her. His hands were callused and cold. They startled her.
“Sorry,” he muttered, withdrawing his hands, and stepping backwards. He pulled the chair closer and seated himself again. He felt more familiar to her than he had previously, and he looked far less menacing than she could remember him being, particularly after their encounter in the common room. He observed her, noticing too that she seemed more real than before—more attainable and empathetic. Something between them had shifted, and despite being surprised that he was the only one there she felt easy.
“No offense, Harry,” she began, feeling sheepish, “But you weren’t necessarily the person I imagined waking up to. I thought perhaps my aunt, or even Hermione.” Her voice trailed off, and she fiddled with the sheet.
“Professor McGonagall was here for the first few days, and your other aunt was here for the first week—but Remus came and insisted they get back to their work. Do you know Remus?” She could tell it wasn’t the only question he wanted to ask, but she didn’t answer.
“The first week?” Her chest tightened.
He nodded, looking a little concerned. “You’ve been coming in and out of consciousness—more out than in, to be fair—for almost three weeks now. Pomfrey and Dumbledore have been here observing, but they haven’t said much to us. I mean us students,” He looked a little uncomfortable as he realized that might have seemed presumptive. His experience for the last three weeks was much different than he assumed hers was. “Hermione’s been livid about it. She set up a rotation for us so that you were never alone; she was insistent you would wake—and she’s always right.” He ran a hand through his hair, and then leaned forward so that his elbows rested on his knees.
Her mouth had settled into a thin line across her face, and her eyes felt weepy. She felt as though she could recall every moment of her life right then, even the faintest and most remote childhood memories. She knew that these last three weeks must have been hell for her aunts, after all the other losses this year. They were the only two people left in her life that mattered, and she felt overwhelmingly that she had disappointed them—not only in the selfishness of her grief, which had caused her to resort to the amnesia charm, but in the recovery of her memories as well.
At least I’m not insane, she thought to herself. Not yet, she added. She suddenly felt the weight of the uncertainty—how long did she need to be fearful of side effects? Were all of her memories returned, or were there outliers that had yet to come back that could cause this to happen again? What could Dumbledore tell her? What had they told Harry, Hermione, even George? Who knew what—
The tangent stopped. In her mind blossomed Elizabeth, and suddenly her mouth was dry.
“Where is Elizabeth?”
“She’s been here as well,” Harry said, but she could tell from his inflection that he hadn’t been completing rounds at her sister’s bedside. “Your aunts and the professors have been checking on her too, and other students.” She could tell also that he was choosing his words carefully.
She bit her lip, and wondered how much she could confide in Harry. She felt suddenly the impulse to tell him about Elizabeth, but she recognized that she couldn’t. She wanted to relieve herself of some of the burden she felt; the weight of these memories was so much heavier than she had anticipated, and she felt that this was why she had wanted to shrug them off in the first place. They were too much; she didn’t know where to start.
But, she recognized that telling anyone right now would be foolish. Despite everything she had seen, she couldn’t bring herself to betray her sister—not until she confronted Elizabeth herself at least.
There was one thing she could share with Harry though. She twisted the sheet in her hands briefly, before looking up at him. He was still leaning towards her. He looked thoughtful in the candlelight; his jaw was leaning in a firm line towards her and his eyes were critical. Something about his body made her trust him.
“Harry, I have to tell you something—something I remembered. I don’t know how much you know about—about my situation, but,” She was stuttering a little, searching for the right words.
“You were under an amnesia charm. Your Aunt Demeter explained it to us after you collapsed at the bonfire. I’m sorry if you didn’t want us to know, I could understand you not wanting us to, but Remus insisted we be told as there could be other side effects and they agreed it would be better for your friends to know.”
“My friends?” She eyed him, feeling speculative. Hermione had described him as curious, and she wondered at what point that had been cleared off for friendship.
“Sure,” he shrugged. “If you’re considering Hermione a friend, I think you’ll have to accept Ron and me out of necessity.” He smirked a little bit, adding, “Plus friendship seems much easier than whatever I was doing before.”
“You mean that critical hovering thing you were doing?”
He was speechless, searching her face for the right reaction. When she started to chuckle, he followed suit. She realized then that one side effect of the amnesia charm had been to strip her of any sense of humor and, consequently, this was the first time she had ever joked with him. Suddenly, she felt that her first three months at Hogwarts had been an out-of-body experience. That person was entirely foreign to her.
“I hope the joking wasn’t too much too soon,” she said, “I’m actually a quite sarcastic person, which I think the charm successfully erased from my personality.”
“The charm seemed to erase much of your personality.”
“I was just thinking that,” she sighed, “Things would have been much easier if I had never asked for that. I wish I hadn’t.” She twisted the sheets more, feeling hot under his gaze.
“Many things would have been easier if that’d been done differently.” Harry sounded wise and far off for a moment, running his hand through his hair again. It was increasingly askew.
“Right,” she trailed off momentarily before coming back to her point. “I need to tell you one of my memories, Harry. Can I?”
“You don’t have to—if it’s private, I mean.”
“It’s about you.”
“Evelyn, we didn’t know each other before,” he looked confused but intrigued. “You couldn’t have a memory about me—you could have a false memory, I suppose, but we’d have to,”
She cut him off. “It’s not a memory of you, Harry. It’s about you.” She averted her eyes, knowing that what she remembered had the potential of upsetting him. “It’s of Sirius.”
Draco could hear the soft voices going back and forth on the other side of the divider, and knew that Evelyn must be awake. For a moment, he strained to hear the conversation but it was futile. His ears recognized that there were voices in conversation, but Madam Pomfrey must have placed an anti-eavesdropping charm on the dividers to maintain patient confidentiality because he couldn’t make out a single word.
He felt frustrated. Elizabeth still hadn’t woken, though she looked more peaceful than she had in weeks.
Hera Manos and Rhett Addington had left shortly before dinner started to get something to eat and rest. The three of them had been at the Hospital Wing as much as possible, missing only for their classes and other duties. Draco had received more letters from his aunt and his father over the last three weeks than he had in his entire school career. They were constantly looking for updates to pass along, and he could only keep repeating that nothing much had changed.
The mark on his arm itched. He could almost feel the discomfort of the Dark Lord. He had felt on one occasion the feeling of someone intruding into his mind and he had allowed it, briefly, but He must have been satisfied that Draco was being honest as the intrusion was fleeting.
Draco leaned forward, brushing a strand of hair away from Elizabeth’s face. For days, she had muttered, screamed, thrashed on the bed—to the point where Madam Pomfrey had struggled to restrain her. He knew Evelyn had done the same, and he had listened while Dumbledore and McGonagall explained that these seizures were to be expected. That knowledge hadn’t stopped him from insulting Madam Pomfrey after her restraints caused deep purple bruises to form on Elizabeth’s arms.
These people are incompetent, he reflected, happy that Elizabeth looked as if she was sleeping now but wishing still that he had more authority—more control—over the situation. He would have taken her away to a real professional who would have worked with more concern and care. He couldn’t wait to be away from this place.
As the conversation on the other side of the divider continued, he grew more restless and jealous. He wanted to talk to Elizabeth. He wanted her to wake up, but he knew if she was truly resting that his feelings were selfish. He wanted her for himself; he wanted the chance to finally win her. He could still remember the feeling of her in his arms by the bonfire, and the reality of her lips finally kissing him back after months of imagining.
“Wake up, Elizabeth.” He whispered, touching her hair again before leaning back into his chair.
He must have drifted off for a moment because when he shifted in his chair, he felt groggy. It took him a moment to realize that two disconsolate eyes were watching him from the hospital bed. The warm brown irises were dark, but lovely in the candlelight. The emotion in them made him timid, and he felt overwhelmed by surprise, joy, and curiosity.
“Elizabeth, you’re awake—” He felt some burdensome weight lift off of him, and he was suddenly leaning towards her wanting to say more.
“She knows, Draco. She knows everything.”
“I’m sorry I couldn’t share this with you sooner, Harry, I’m so sorry.” Harry’s arms had moved onto the bed during their conversation, and Evelyn’s hand rested on his forearm.
She worried momentarily that he would pull away from her, but he just shook his head, “Thank you for telling me. Remus tried, Dumbledore did too—even Luna. And I realized that Sirius wouldn’t want me to be depressed. He’d want me to keep fighting. Which was one of the reasons I wanted to practice dueling with you. But, it’s different hearing it from him like this.” He paused a moment before adding, “That’s what you were talking about that day in Potions, then?”
“I guess. I’m surprised it surfaced, of all things. Something must have triggered it,” she paused, still looking down at her hands. Her sheet was irreparably wrinkled. “Looking back, I’m not surprised you looked at me the way you did then. And after the common room. You must have thought I was cracked.”
“I did, for a bit,” he admitted, and the warmth in his voice made her look up. “Then I thought the Order was wrong about you… That maybe you were working for Voldemort.” Her jaw slackened a little, and the surprise and hurt on her face wiped away any lingering doubts that may have been sitting on the edge of his mind. “I see now that assumption was a bit off the mark.”
“Voldemort killed my parents.” She said the sentence so quietly and so abruptly that it almost knocked the wind out of him. “Not personally, I mean—at least, I don’t think so—but he ordered them to be killed. Not much of a difference in my opinion.”
“McGonagall told us that your parents had been killed, only as a way of validating your decision to use the amnesia charm though. She didn’t share too many details. I don’t think she wanted to.”
“She wouldn’t, I know. She’s always been very mindful of things like that,” Evelyn paused, wanting again to tell Harry about Elizabeth. The conversation was open for it. There was something about his receptiveness of her memories, his openness towards her; in that moment that she felt he could help her with it. He could steer her in the right direction, what to do, how to handle it, where to start.
All of these answers eluded her, and she felt that maybe this new friend who had lost in ways she had lost might be able to help. The sky was beginning to lighten outside of the windows, and she felt that this was her chance to confide in him. There was something between them right then that was rarified and charged—an opening for honesty where she could anticipate his earnestness and his ease in conversation.
She opened her mouth to start again, but the door to the wing creaked open and Hermione Granger appeared in her field of vision.
Hermione had already begun speaking to Harry before she realized that Evelyn was sitting up in bed. She stopped mid-sentence, eyes rounding and glassing over. “Oh! Evie! You’re awake!”
She was surprised to hear the nickname her family used come out of Hermione’s mouth, but it felt oddly appropriate. She smiled, nodding, and taking in a hug from Hermione who came to her quickly and with gusto.
“Has Madam Pomfrey seen you yet? How long have you been awake?”
Harry eyed the clock across the room, and admitted that it had been almost two hours.
“Two hours! Harry! How could you!” Hermione immediately stomped out of the partitioned space and towards the end of the wing where Madam Pomfrey’s quarters were.
Harry and Evelyn exchanged amused glances. When Pomfrey arrived, Harry was shooed away from the bedside. She felt his absence immediately.
Pomfrey wasn’t quite done with her overall examination when the wing began to fill with worried faces. First Aunt Minerva, then Dumbledore—who left after a few moments to retrieve her Aunt Demeter and Remus from his office, where they had been instructed to floo by an express owl. Her aunts moved back and forth between the partition, checking first on Evelyn and then on Elizabeth, whom Evelyn was told had also awoken.
The information washed over Evelyn bitterly.
Ron Weasley appeared after a short while, bringing along a plate of various breakfast foods. Hermione berated him for taking time to stop at the Great Hall before coming to check on their friend. They bickered, and Harry continued to send her amused glances.
She felt relieved when Pomfrey finally finished evaluating her, and moved on to her sister. Demeter took a seat on Evelyn’s bed, and begain rubbing her niece’s ankle affectionately. Minerva stood next to her sister, her face oddly calm. They both looked relieved and a bit tired. Remus had taken a chair nearby, his leg crossed and his posture casual.
“There is so much to discuss,” Demeter finally said, and it sounded almost as if she was near tears. “After Albus has a chance to review your results with Madam Pomfrey, of course.”
“I hope the discussion will include answers to my questions.” Evelyn responded somewhat sarcastically, and her aunt nodded (a little reproachfully, but amused).
“In just that response I see how much more yourself you are than you have been.” Demeter sounded relieved, and she looked up at her sister for a moment. Minerva gave a curt nod, acknowledging her agreement. Evelyn could see the way both of her aunts’ eyes were softening around the edges. They excused themselves to check on Elizabeth, and Evelyn felt a little sick.
How can I tell them? How can I ever tell them?
Loud voices distrupted her thoughts, but she couldn’t make out the words, and something shattered on the floor.
Evelyn heard the voice of Madam Pomfrey, close to the opening of her partition: “Minerva, I’m sorry—you’ll have to leave. Out.” Dumbledore was there too: “Minerva, Demeter, please.”
Both aunts returned to Evelyn’s partition, a little shocked and wet. Evelyn realized then that she might not have to tell them, or she might not have to struggle with it, when they told her in hushed tones that Elizabeth had refused to speak with them and had thrown her washbasin at them. She refused to see them again. She’d screamed incoherently at them.
Demeter started crying after the retelling, and Remus sprung up to wrap his arms around her.
It was then that everyone turned to look at Evelyn, because her lack of surprise made it clear that she knew something they didn’t.
It was almost midday, and Pomfrey had said that she could leave for lunch if she wished. She had added that she would need to leave by dinner so that the beds could be turned over before the Quidditch match that was scheduled for tomorrow afternoon.
Evelyn had been left alone, her family asked to return to their business by Dumbledore and her friends sent to classes. She wanted to take a few moments to go over her physical results, and to think on what had been related to her, before she entered the social sphere.
“Evelyn, there are still a few things that seem to be alluding you.” Dumbledore had explained after entering her mind through legilimency. “Madam Pomfrey’s results show that you are healthy, but weak. You seem to be suffering from exhaustion, but we believe that because of your age and the short-term nature of the amnesia that you will recover safely. However, these allusive memories may return at any point—triggered just as the initial onslaught was. The studies your aunt has collected have shown that some patients have reported memories returning in their sleep, in a form akin to dreams, or have experienced episodes as you did.”
It sounded largely like good news, but she had hesitated under the earnestness of his gaze. It was the last part that lingered heavy with her, and she turned his sentences over again and again.
“I’ve explained this all to your sister, but you must know as well. Either of you could be triggered at any time, which could and most likely would bring both of you back into your memories as it did this time. This is probably due to the fact that you are twins; none of the studies have shown linked cases like you’ve described where memories are shared, even if victims under amnesia charms knew one another previously. But this doesn’t mean that once there the memories will affect you the same. It’s hard to hypothesize, but we believe that both or either of you could still be suspectible to the darker side effects of this charm, including insanity.”
She had explained to him that some of the memories she’d experienced hadn’t been hers at all, but rather they had been Elizabeth’s. He acknowledged that Elizabeth had confided that much in him as well, and he assumed that this was what had caused some of the tension that had been exercised towards Minerva and Demeter.
Evelyn refused to explain further and he hadn’t pushed her, but she didn’t openly disagree with him—though she felt the rebuke of her aunts was a more calculated move. Her sister was operating with a different agenda than she had previously assumed. Since the remembering, Elizabeth had been reconstructed completely; her motives were suspect.
Dumbledore’s eyes had twinkled when she fell silent. He had added only, “You’ll need to be conscientious about your symptions, and vigilient in reporting migraines, dizziness or fainting, or partial recall as these are the side effects best known for predicting the breakdown of the amnesia charm. Your vigilance will allow us to support you, to keep you safe. I might suggest relying on your friends as much as possible.”
The thought of friends here at Hogwarts still felt a little foreign, but then she remembered Harry there—leaning towards her with honesty and acceptance—and it felt familiar. It felt like the way Theo had been, reaching across her to pester Lacey at lunch and whispering to her “watch this,” an invitation to join in on the joke. She thought about Hermione, trying to care for her and invite her in—and that too felt familiar. Even Ron bringing food with him, and sheepishly trying to provide good reason while Hermione berated him felt like a familiar gesture of friendship that she hadn’t expected.
She wanted to trust them, and she thought she could. She tried to push doubts away, and was mildly successful.
“I hear you’re being kicked out.” A bright voice cut into her thoughts, and her eyes snapped up, landing on George Weasley. A welcomed distraction.
“It’s true. Pomfrey believes that there will be many, many injuries at the Hufflepuff-Slytherin match tomorrow, and there simply isn’t room at the inn.” She was suddenly glad she had changed into her clothes before lying back down to mull over her thoughts so that George didn’t have to see her in the hospital gown she’d woken in.
“Well, I’m here to offer my services as escort—back to your common room or to the Great Hall, whichever you may prefer. Harry tried to usurp my services, but I insisted and allowed him the spot of second best, which means he’ll be meeting you to walk you to your afternoon class.”
She realized she wasn’t sure what day it was, and felt somewhat glad to have someone lead her to the place she needed to go that afternoon. “I’m glad for that, as I’m so far behind in my classes I’m not even sure which one I have later today.”
George admitted he wasn’t sure either, as he moved to help her out of the bed. She felt lightheaded for a moment, and he looked concerned. He seemed gentle as he eased her robes onto her arms, over her clothes.
Once she felt steady on her feet, she asked, “So is that why you’re really here, George?”
“Not happy to see me, eh?”
“No, I am.” She smiled, continuing, “I can say now—now that I remember—that I enjoyed spending the summer at Grimmauld Place with your parents. Your mother particularly. Though, I’m sure they didn’t realize how much I appreciated them. And, I enjoyed visiting your shop when my aunts took me to Diagon Alley! That I remember now too.” A tight smile fluttered across her face. “I was just curious why you’d been around so often lately. Still nearby for the Order?”
“I’ll be sure to pass along those fond memories,” He said, smiling and helping her out of the partition. She took a moment to look around the wing, noticing that the other partiioned bed was vacant. She hadn’t seen her sister leave, but she didn’t linger on the thought. “And yes, Order business continues. Though, I can admit now that we were tasked with monitoring the Bonfire Night celebration explicitly—so that was all business.”
“It was all business?” She asked coyly, remembering his arms leading her in dance.
He blushed a bit, which was answer enough. He changed the subject. “How are you feeling then? You seem to be walking well,” they had crossed the room, and he stopped to open the door for her. As she moved past him, she looked at him to see if he, too, knew as Harry had known. Though the question went unasked, he said, “Dumbledore updated the Order about your condition. He wants us to keep an eye on you, in addition to your friends.”
“So everyone knows then?”
“Everyone in the Order, yes. Then Harry, Ron, and Hermione.”
Evelyn felt relieved momentarily; she hadn’t until that moment felt worried that the entire school might know about her condition, or the selfishness that had driven her to inflict it upon herself. She was embarrassed. She didn’t want anyone she didn’t trust to know, and she was glad to know they didn’t—unless she counted her sisters’ friends, who she felt would be too loyal to Elizabeth to gossip.
“But, you’re avoiding my question, dear.”
Her mind came back to their conversation, and she grimaced a bit. “Am not—just lost my train of thought.” She gave a little smile, trying to be honest without giving everything away, which she felt was what Dumbledore had asked of her. “I’m fine. Fine as I can be expected to be, right? Walking and talking and all.” Her smile widened a bit.
He was leading her to the Great Hall, even though she hadn’t specified her preference. She leaned on his arm more than she needed to. “Good to hear,” his tone was so jovial that it continued to widen her smile. “Wouldn’t want you to feel guilty or regretful of this whole bit—as such feelings would be absolutely and totally unnecessary. Witches and wizards have been known to do many, many things in moments of grief, and this is by far the least to be ashamed of.”
She looked a little struck, wondering if she was that easy to read. “How did you—”
“I’ve got a pretty good sense of you,” he admitted, “After the summer.” She was struck with the realization that they’d met before. A jolt came through her, and she knew that hazy memory was preparing itself to come forward. She wondered if she’d dream it into her mind that night. He chuckled, looking her over, and adding, “I can see you don’t remember yet, and I won’t shock your system with it or spoil the surprise. But just know—I was there, and I’m still here.”
His eyes danced, and she knew that he felt familiar because he was familiar.
“I like that you’re still here.”
They stopped outside the doors of the Great Hall, which was buzzing with students. She briefly felt overwhelmed about entering after being gone for so long. She was sure the other students would have noticed her absence, and she wondered what they had been told.
“Are you coming in?” She asked, breaking away from the heavier topic.
“No, I’ve got to get to the shop actually. Responsibilities and such.” He puffed his chest a bit. She wished he could walk her in. “I expect to see you at Christmas though. And perhaps you’ll allow me to owl?”
“I’ll allow it.”
She hugged him then, feeling a genuine smile stretch across her face. Her whole person felt different—more organic and earnest. She recognized that there were hurdles ahead, and some may be too high for her, but she hadn’t felt so normal in her existence in months.
Author's Note: I really wanted to get this chapter up weeks ago, but life has been so hectic lately--and probably will continue to be for the next few weeks. Thank you to pink bunny for being my first reviewer, and for reading every chapter of this story. Your words were so kind! I hope you enjoy this chapter too : )
Chapter 19: Confrontational
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Evelyn stood in front of the mirror in the bathroom connected to her dorm room, wet hair hanging down her back and toothbrush in hand. She had finished her morning shower and had been going through her routine when she was struck by her reflection. She went through the same essential routine every morning, but for whatever reason—whether it was the way the light caught her reflection that morning or the nondescript way in which she moved past the counter—her reflection had made her pause, and the minutes scuttled away while she looked at herself.
Since June, she seemed to have lost a noticeable amount of weight. Her hair was several inches longer than she remembered it, and had outgrown its haircut a bit. Anemic circles hung under her eyes. She could remember that over the last few months she had slept much less than had been her habit and had—on some days—stopped eating entirely, but she couldn’t remember having noticed the effects of those behaviors. She just hadn’t felt tired or hungry; abruptly she thought that in reality she simply hadn’t felt.
She ran her finger along her cheekbone, feeling its prominence. She thought she looked older, and she wondered if she looked haunted. Am I haunted? It was a dramatic thought, but she felt returned to herself and lavished in this opportunity for self-criticism that had once been an ordinary thing like brushing her teeth or inspecting a blemish.
A soft knock interrupted her thoughts, and she looked to the door, where she could see a shadow at the foot of the door. She could hear Hermione shift her weight from her left foot to her right foot on the other side of the door. She knew it was Hermione as all the other girls had left for breakfast when she’d entered the bathroom; Hermione had been the only one left, working on an outline of an essay that had been assigned to them the afternoon before.
“Coming!” She called out, looking back at her reflection. After another moment, she muttered a few glamor charms quickly, trying to bring some warmth to her cheeks with blush and hiding the bags under her eyes. Her hair was already air-drying in its natural waves, and she simply cast an anti-frizz spell to help it along. She threw on her robes, and hoped—prayed—that she didn’t look haunted.
Since returning from her stay at the Hospital Wing, there had been a few murmurs here and there. Evelyn could see that students looked at her in a slightly different light—with more curiosity. Hermione explained that the student body had already been interested in her when she’d transferred, and that she probably hadn’t noticed because she was more self-conscious now.
Evelyn felt it had just as much to do with simply being conscious now as well. It was like the whole school had been veiled to her before, and that the return of her memories had swept that veil away. She didn’t share that bit with Hermione, who already seemed to keep close watch of her. Her new friend didn’t feel overbearing, but Evelyn could feel how protective she was—so much more so than either Harry or Ron, who often accompanied them at meals and shared classes.
Whenever the looks of their fellow classmates got a little too intense or the murmurs began to bother her, Hermione would shoot glares at the instigators or loudly dismiss them with a snapping retort. And, for that, Evelyn was thankful. She could now remember the hours she had spent in June and July, locked in her room at Grimmauld Place and refusing to answer the door or return overseas owls, spending hours thinking only of what her life had been and what lay ahead of her. When she tried to sleep, she saw her mother’s face, and—in the rare event she could make it past—she dreamt of her parents’ funeral. Those sleepless, confined days still felt close, making her feel anxious when she let them linger over her.
She couldn’t yet remember who had persuaded her to unlock the door, but she knew that at the beginning of August they had been moved to their aunt’s quarters at Hogwarts for the final month of summer, which had introduced her to the library and to the possibility of the amnesia charm.
Now, feeling Hermione bristle next to her when a pair of Hufflepuffs pointed in her direction and looked at each other wide-eyed as they exchanged comments in hushed tones, she realized she’d been dramatic in thinking that friendships were beyond her then. The rest of her grief was valid, but that one kernel—the egging voice in the back of her head that had suggested there was no one left in the world to love her, to be a friend to her—that had been a lie. The realization allowed her to relax into herself, and she smiled as Hermione scolded them, letting her friend handle it.
Evelyn had spent a few evenings, after completing her homework with Hermione or allowing Ron to best her at Wizarding Chess, lying on her bed with the curtains drawn. She wasn’t necessarily pretending to sleep or avoiding anyone. She was simply trying to carve out time for her mind to work through the memories that had come back to her. More dreams seemed to trickle in each night, and she tried to set aside time to allow her mind to massage the returning pieces into place. It was almost like meditation, and she felt that even if it wasn’t actually helping her, that she was experiencing a placebo effect. She felt more in control of her mind.
While that in itself was empowering, there were pieces that had come back to her that she knew couldn’t be wrestled into place. In some instances, these weren’t her memories at all—meaning there was no original place for them to fit back into. Rather, they were Elizabeth’s memories and new space had to be carved out for them. These were the most difficult to mediate in these moments, alone surrounded by the soft hangings that made the light coming through look reddish, because a small part of her wished she had never gained these new memories. The memories had come at random, spanning their entire life, and each slowly painted a picture of how much Elizabeth resented Evelyn—for events that were painful and loomed large in their formative years, like the summer that Evelyn had traveled to England without her because her father had said that if Elizabeth couldn’t get a handle on her grades she couldn’t come for a visit, and for more pedantic moments, like the Christmas where their mother had made blueberry muffins for breakfast and had failed to remember that Elizabeth hated blueberries (which had happened on multiple occasions as their mother had loved them, but which always seemed to be such a small transgression that Evelyn never took notice before).
Evelyn wished she could have gone about blindly, distanced from her sister like she had been for years without truly knowing why they couldn’t overcome the hurdle that had been erected between them, and never known what Elizabeth had felt or done. The idea that Elizabeth had played a role in the death of their parents hurt Evelyn. It hurt her like nothing ever had before. Not getting in trouble for smoking in high school, not kissing her middle school boyfriend, not popping the heads off her dolls when Evelyn had refused to share—none of these things hurt the way these new memories hurt. Elizabeth had been the secret keeper for their father, and, whether she had been fed false information and manipulated to confess or she had volunteered the information, it didn’t matter. She couldn’t take it back. Their parents were gone, and she had a hand in it.
She began to tossed blame. It was her initial instinct to take it all for herself, feeling that it must have been the distance she’d laid between Elizabeth and her that had led her to do the things she had done. In her mind, Evelyn was sure there was a way these things could have never happened—that at least her father could have been saved. If she had only done one thing differently, perhaps the world wouldn’t be the way it was now.
Angry tears boiled at the corners of her eyes as she stared at the hangings around her. If she had been alone, she might have screamed or thrashed about, but she didn’t want to draw attention to herself. The other girls hadn’t returned to the room yet, but she expected them soon. Padma and Parvati were always early to bed and early to rise. So, instead, she pulled these feelings back into herself and tried to continue her meditation, shoving the ends of her sleeves across the corners of her eyes to erase the tears. She felt that if there was a space for these memories to file into, then perhaps she could relax. She could work on acceptance, and get a hold on her grief.
Another part of her reared up, though, insisting she wouldn’t even be able to begin that work until she confronted Elizabeth. She wanted her sister to look at her, and tell her that she had done this thing. She wanted to know why. She wanted one last truth from Elizabeth—didn’t she owe her this? Then Evelyn could look her in the eye and tell Elizabeth that she was dead to her. Then she could come back to her grief and her meditation, continuing this other work.
Evelyn hadn’t seen her sister outside of class since she had left the Hospital Wing, but she feared crossing paths with her at this point. If this second part of her got its way, she knew she would lose her sister forever. There would be no chance of reconciliation, no finding their way back to one another after adolescence—as her mother had often insisted would be the case when Evelyn would come home from school frustrated with her sister. Her heart ached at the thought of losing another family member, but that other part of her stormed up again, insisting that this other family member had been lost long ago. There is no chance left; it’s just a matter of acceptance now, that bitter other part of her insisted.
These two parts of her warred back and forth until all of the other girls had returned, readied for bed, and turned out the lights. She wasn’t sure how long she spent staring out into the darkness before she fell asleep.
Though she hadn’t come to a decision about how to handle her feelings towards Elizabeth, she didn’t have to wait long to see what would happen. Leaving Potions class later that week with Harry, Ron, and Hermione, Evelyn found her sister near the classroom, presumably close to the Slytherian common room, walking towards her with Hera Manos and Rhett Addington. Her sister’s two friends seemed to recognize Evelyn before Elizabeth did, reaching instinctively into their robes and pulling out their wands. Evelyn watched her sister intently, following her as she looked first at the newly drawn wands and then at Evelyn. Her mouth dropped into a straight line. She looked put off, which immediately made Evelyn indignant and defensive.
They had already passed one another when Evelyn stopped, dropping back from her friends and turning to call out in the direction of her sister’s retreating form.
“I need to talk to you. Now.”
“It can wait.” Elizabeth’s voice was cold, and she said this without fully turning around to address her. She was flippant and proud, and Evelyn’s anger grew.
“It can’t wait. Not anymore.” Evelyn growled.
Elizabeth turned fully, her brown eyes meeting Evelyn’s with untarnished hate. Evelyn was startled, dread and anger stirring in her stomach. Such despise had rarely been passed between them at Hogwarts as after their initial closeness (induced by the amnesia charm) had faded, they had moved towards simply ignoring one another except for rare occasions. She could remember now the way Elizabeth had hung beside her in their aunt’s quarters, hollow in the chair and looking away as Evelyn insisted she needed the amnesia charm to be cast to be herself again, to survive. She had been right to think that Elizabeth had wanted to use the charm to distance herself from her family—a family it was now clear she had long been ready to disown. The look Elizabeth sent her was familiar, however, from their prior life when it had often been sent across the halls of the Academy. The charm had repressed it, but it hadn’t erased it.
With just that look, Evelyn realized she should have suspected the betrayal. From the beginning of the previous school year, Elizabeth had been deceptive, rude, and aloof. On more than one occasion, their mother had caught her sneaking in early in the morning. She’d been suspended from school for fighting. She’d ended all communication with their father. She was self-destructive, neglectful, and denied every iota of blame. She may have been an easy target, and she may even recognize that she was manipulated—but did she regret it?
“Alone.” Evelyn added; it wasn’t a question, but her sister treated it as such.
“No. Whatever you have to say can be said here.”
Evelyn looked at her friends, each wearing different shades of discomfort. Manos and Addington seemed less surprised by the sisters, and watched Evelyn with bored eyes. She suddenly felt bare.
“They know—don’t they?” She gestured towards the two Slytherians flanking her sister. She could feel her neck getting red and her eyes stung a bit. “Did you brag about it, is that it? Spreading the news across the common room like it’s a triumph—like it’s something you should be proud of. Makes you pretty important among those disgusting purists.” Her tone was descending into bitterness, and she impulsively fingered her wand.
Over all the nights she’d spent meditating behind her curtains, she had never once considered attacking her sister. Everything felt different, upended and unclear.
Elizabeth rolled her eyes, “You’ve always been so self-righteous, Evie. Just like dad. I don’t have time for this.”
She started to move away, but Evelyn drew her wand, “Don’t you dare mention him.” Her voice shook, but her arm didn’t.
“What’ll you do, then? Attack me? Because I mentioned a good-for-nothing father who left our mother because he couldn’t contain her? Or, what if I mention our mother who was too weak to get over him? Who made a spectacle of herself everywhere we went?” She scoffed, narrowing her eyes. “Don’t worry, Evie. I won’t mention them again—I don’t want anything to do with them. They did nothing for us. We’re better off without them.”
Evelyn’s arm had begun to shake by the time Elizabeth’s mouth snapped shut. Tears blurred her eyes, and she knew she couldn’t cast—she was too emotional, and it wouldn’t be safe. Elizabeth took advantage of the moment, and turned with her friends to continue down the hall.
“WE’RE THROUGH, YOU AND ME!” Evelyn’s voice called out down the hall, slowly rising in volume. “YOU MINEASWELL HAVE DIED WITH THEM! IT’S DONE. WE’RE DONE!”
Elizabeth seemed to pause momentarily, but then rounded a corner and disappeared as Evelyn’s shouts rang around them echoing until the only sound left was her sporadic breathing and her sobs, muffled by Harry’s shoulder.
Author's note: First, thank you to all my readers out there. This story has now been read over 1,000 times and I'm simply blown away! I honestly wondered if there was still an audience out there for Hogwarts-generation writing as most writers on this site have either completed those era-stories that they were working on and have moved on to other eras or newer writers have stuck with those other eras or minor characters entirely, and I want to thank all of you who have taken the time to read this story!
Also, I really wanted to get a new chapter into the queue, so you'll notice there is no chapter image this time. But I hope the chapter itself makes up for it! I'm so glad to have Evelyn and Elizabeth out of the amnesia charm because they're so much more fun to write! I am interested to see what you think of them as they continue on from this point forward. I've written several chapters ahead, but will probably be forced to post a little less frequently now that school has picked up for the fall. Look for new chapters to go into the queue on Saturdays, and become available by the end of the weekend or early week.. Ideally, I'd get one up per week but they will probably come with less frequency.
Until then, leave me your thoughts in reviews or message me. I love to hear from you!
Chapter 20: Pretenses
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He handed her a glass filled with Firewhiskey, which he correctly assumed was her drink of choice. Elizabeth’s eyes studied him as he looked down at her. As if knowing what she wanted without having to hear her ask, he sunk into the couch beside her.
The whole common room seemed to vibrate with music. Another party, another night. It was clear to Elizabeth that the Slytherians loved the typical sins—liquor, sex, and other lewd behavior. Elizabeth had avoided the parties at the beginning of the year. After befriending Hera, she had attended most of them, where she realized she could handle her liquor better than any of the girls and even some of the guys. She also realized that dancing in the states was very different than dancing here, where she’d surprised a few guys with the way her hips moved across them. By October, she noticed the way Draco watched her, particularly when she was dancing with other guys. Even in the darkened room, she could see his eyes flashing. It only made her want to do it more.
After the events of the last few weeks, though, she had allowed Draco to occupy a closer orbit. He seemed somewhat pleased with the change, and she tried to negotiate the shift in their relationship. The shift was partially inevitable as she was now expected to help him complete his task. However, the other part was murkier and may have been fueled by the fact that, at times, she could still feel his lips on hers as they had been on Bonfire Night. Sometimes when she would wake up in the morning, she could swear the taste of him was still in her mouth, lingering there to taunt her. She had hesitated to tell Hera, but eventually had and was met with a bit of squealing and a bit of I told you so.
When she looked at him sitting beside her just then, her mind began to drift back to his lips and she wondered if she’d like to have his lips on hers again. His kiss had been so different than the ones that had passed between her and Khan. And now, with her memories almost fully returned, she wondered how Draco would fair—if it would be different or the same.
“Are you okay, Ellie?” Draco looked at her, and she could feel him observing her with his critical eye. “From what they’ve been saying throughout the castle, whatever happened between you and your sister was pretty shocking. You know He will want to hear about this. If you don’t want to tell Him yourself, I can address it in my next letter.”
Elizabeth downed her drink, letting her eyes close as she tilted her head back. It burned all the way down, and she loved that feeling.
Draco continued, “I know you’re probably still in need of rest, and my aunt feels that you should not attend the meeting tomorrow night. I agree with her, and I know that she will petition Him on your behalf. Not that you need to worry—He seems to be very sympathetic for your condition. Though, He’s eager to meet with you again. My aunt believes He’ll want a private audience, but I think we should develop more concrete plans before you arrange that.”
He was rattling on, but Elizabeth could barely decipher his words from the music.
“Draco, get me another drink—and let’s talk upstairs.” He obeyed, and she smirked—loving his obedience. She rose to meet him by the stairs to the boys’ dormitory, casting a glance to Hera who was watching them from the dance floor. Hera feigned shock before sending her a thumbs’ up. She wondered briefly what her friend assumed may happen, but that didn’t stop her from following Draco down the stairs.
The doors were organized youngest to oldest, and, once they passed the fourth year doors, Elizabeth noticed that many of the doors that they passed had school ties draped over the doorknob, indicating occupation. She smirked to herself, following Draco into his room and noting that he did not pause to place a tie on his doorknob.
Draco immediately began to repeat the things he had spoken of earlier in the common room, beginning with her confrontation with Evelyn. He handed her one of the two drinks he had carried up the stairs, and his voice prattled on again. Her attention refused to be kept, and she began to walk slowly around the room, examining his side of the space. Slyterians only slept two to a room, and the rooms were small. Draco’s desk sat opposite the foot of his bed with the armoire off to the left. The door to the bathroom was on his roommate’s side of the dorm, which featured a bed, armoire, and desk similarly arranged. Elizabeth was relatively certain that his roommate was Blaise Zabini, and she felt the large mirror that had been fixed over the desk confirmed her suspicion. She turned her attention back to Draco’s objects.
“Did you want to keep up any pretenses?” Elizabeth asked coyly, sipping her drink. She ran her fingers across the parchments that were scattered across the desk, eying half-finished assignments that she was pleased to see she had already completed. Her fingers roamed over his tie, which had been discarded there next to a quill, and she looked at him archly.
He stopped abruptly in his discussion of her sister and how the confrontation should be communicated to their superiors, and his face shifted into a smirk.
“Got something on your mind?” He took another sip of his drink, and set it down on his side table. She liked the way he held the glass. He seemed to breathe sophistication, and she looked at him standing there across from her with a hungry glint in his eyes. She wondered how long he would look at her like that; from what Hera had told her, Draco wasn’t one for yearning endlessly after a girl. The rumors were that he’d had plenty, even ones that had flung themselves at his feet only to be ignored. Hera couldn’t say that she had known him to commit to anyone for an extended period of time, though he had his habitual hook-ups.
She eyed him carefully, and returned his smirk. “Plenty of things on my mind, but I’d hate to disappoint you as most of them have to do with business. I just thought we’d be less likely to be interrupted if people thought we were busy.”
The wild look of disappointment that displaced the look of hunger in his eyes was almost as inviting to her as its predecessor. Her smirk widened into a grin, and she moved towards him, taking a seat on his bed without being asked. She slid out of the heels that Hera had insisted she wear and brought her feet up onto his bed, tucking them under her dress. She tussled her long hair, and looked up at him. He was still standing, and his disappointment had shifted into annoyance. She smiled sweetly, and patted the bed.
He made to move towards her, but corrected his path first, taking up the tie from his desk and then smoothly opened up the door and slipped the tie around the external doorknob. She could tell he made eye contact with another boy—probably doing something similar—and the smirk briefly returned to his face before he closed the door and turned the lock. He moved with long strides back across the room, his eyes washing over her as he sat on the bed beside her. He too removed his shoes, but leaned back across the bed in the posture of a Muggle fashion model.
“Tell me about your plan for the opal necklace.”
He balked at her directness, looking down at his hands, which he’d laced in front of his abdomen, and shifting on his elbow. When he looked back up at her, his posture was more comfortable and his face was set with indifference and pride. It was the face he sported on a regular basis, and the look in his eye that she felt had been reserved just for her had slipped away. She wasn’t sure if it bothered her or not—this sense of being treated as equal to the rest of their housemates—but she feigned indifference as he began to lay out the plan for her. She nodded along, watching his lips round out words and interrupting to ask questions, to insert herself, or to see where she might be of service. She knew she couldn’t take credit for this plan; Draco had purchased the necklace well before she was instructed to assist him. But, if they were successful, she felt that she could at least say that she had aided in its execution if not its invention—which would please Him. Though, she knew just as well that if they weren’t successful, He would be just as pleased.
Voldemort had told her his feelings on the matter explicitly after she was marked. The task he’d given Draco was, at its root, an opportunity to teach the Malfoy family a lesson. While their bloodline made it difficult for Him to extinguish them outright and He leaned on Lucius for certain luxuries, He didn’t feel as though he needed Draco to kill Dumbledore, who was a formidable opponent but weak man. In fact, Voldemort had admitted that He didn’t believe the boy capable. Draco was talented, particularly at Occlumency, and had proven a desirable young recruit, but Voldemort could smell weakness on him, the same as his father, and was uncertain of what the boy might produce in response to this challenge. Either Dumbledore was killed or Lucius and Narcissa were—and Voldemort felt confident that either option could be beneficial to him.
For this reason, He had asked Elizabeth to take on part of the task not so much to ensure success but to observe Draco—to get a better sense of the boy and to monitor his work. He hoped that the weakness was something that could be squeezed out of the boy, but it was difficult to enter his mind for more than a fleeting moment so that He could be certain.
She’d been reporting back to Him through Bella, and He had admitted mixed feelings to their progress. In a rare direct correspondence, He had told her that He almost wished Draco would fail so that He could kill Lucius. He hadn’t wanted to share these thoughts with Bella, knowing that at times she could be too fragile and could react poorly to the destruction of pureblood families (particularly her sister’s), but He had written her because He trusted her.
She had been chosen.
Elizabeth wondered how He would react to this latest development, and—with an eye towards the future—she wondered what His plans for Draco might be whether he succeeded or not. He had reassured her multiple times that the result of their efforts would have no bearing on her status or rank. His plans for her superseded this task, the knowledge of which had filled her with pride and eagerness. She wanted to bring Him joy, to increase His trust, and to make reciprocal the feeling of pride. But, at this moment, she wasn’t sure if helping Draco succeed or allowing him to fail would achieve that.
For herself, she felt the death of Dumbledore would be more beneficial for their cause than the death of Lucius. So, she asked Draco to start from the beginning, again, and continued to question his plan until she felt that it was ready to be implemented.
It was late into the night when she rose from her position on his bed. The torches were burning low, and she wondered momentarily where Zabini was. Draco didn’t seem surprised that his roommate had not returned. She pulled her dress down, adjusting seams and picking up her shoes, her hair falling across her face as she moved about his dorm. She could feel him watching her, waiting.
Finally, she said, “It’s a good plan, Draco.”
He nodded curtly, standing to walk her to the door. His hand rose to the small of her back, as if to guide her, despite the fact that the door was immediately in front of her and impossible to miss. She avoided his eye, smirking and noting to herself that he must have wanted desperately to touch her. She could feel her body relax against his palm involuntarily, forcing her to note secondarily that she didn’t mind when he touched her.
“Hogsmeade then. December, the last trip right before break.”
“Should I tell your aunt?”
“No,” he paused. They had reached the door, but neither of them moved to open it. “I think we should wait until afterwards, when we can share real news rather than a proposal.”
She nodded in agreement, knowing that Bella would want to involve herself if informed prematurely and she didn’t feel that was necessary. “I agree, it may be wise to follow the news home for the holiday rather than allow the proposal to hang there without word until you arrive. Depending on how it goes, at least.”
He muttered his agreement, leaning forward to place his hand on the doorknob. He was close to her then—closer than he had been all night—and her face lingered near the nape of his neck, which smelled like faded cologne and whiskey. She heard rather than saw the door unlatch, and the light from the corridor peaked into the room, cutting across Draco’s chest. Her hand moved to it before she could stop herself. He tilted his face to hers ever so slightly, his eyes tired but wild and his lips nearby. Again, she couldn’t stop herself.
She leaned forward, allowing her lips to settle against his for a moment. His lips were warm and smooth, and they seemed to meet hers with that hunger she’d seen in his eyes, and which she hadn’t felt in any kiss from any person before. She forced herself to retreat, pulling her coyness up around her to shield herself from feeling anything more.
“Keeping up pretenses, right?” She murmured, pulling away fully and exiting quickly into the corridor, where she thanked him a little louder before striding towards the stairs.
Author’s Note: So, I’ll confess that I know Katie is cursed in October 1996 in the novel, but I felt like it was a good place for Elizabeth to interject and moving it back to December wouldn’t have too much of an effect on Rowling’s underlying narrative structure. Plus, as this story is marked AU, I took the liberty! But—just for the record—it was purposeful. And… you’ll see why… pretty soon!
Hope all the Elizabeth fans out there enjoyed this chapter; I love taking her on for whole chapters, and there are a few ahead that I'm looking forward to sharing with you all. Thank you again to pink bunny, who leaves the kind of reviews that make you exclaim, “Oh! So sweet!” and that make you wish you had more time to get things into the queue!
Chapter 21: Knocked Down
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Evelyn flung her body to the right, casting a shield charm and then directing a hex towards Harry. He deflected it easily, lunging towards her with his arm straight and steady. She could see his chest heaving, and as he got closer she noticed beads of sweat collected in the corners of his eyes. She wondered briefly if she obscured his vision, how he would do—but then decided on a different tactic, casting a trip jinx and watching him as he fell, sliding forward and stopping just shy of her wand. She was on her feet again, holding him in place and smiling victoriously. Her own chest heaved, and she lowered her wand, using her free hand to pull him to his feet.
“Better,” she said between breaths, “You’re holding back less.”
“Right, it’s getting easier to attack you.” He deadpanned.
She waved her wand, conjuring two glasses and a few hand towels, which Harry snapped up greedily and used to mop his brow. She filled the glasses with water from her wand, and then handed one to Harry. She could feel her heart beginning to slow as she sipped, and she had to stop herself from drinking too much.
They had been meeting in the Room of Requirement at least twice a week, which was about as much free time as Harry had between classes, meetings with Dumbledore, and Quidditch practice. Evelyn was pleased that they were back to practicing as she found the dueling sessions quite therapeutic. In the weeks since her encounter with Elizabeth, she had felt particularly angry and depressed. Each night, new memories slipped in, and these memories only made matters worse. Whether they were Elizabeth’s memories, which painted a horrific vision of their childhood, or her own, which were much lovelier, the memories caused her to feel more deeply her loss, her anger, and her frustration.
At the Academy, she had often boasted to her friends that she wasn’t the kind of person to regret things. She kissed Theo when she wanted to kiss him, had pursued her work in class with ardor, and had raged through life with delight. When these actions proved to be mistakes or pursuits went horribly wrong, she embraced the frustration and acted as though that had been her intention the whole time—like when Theo had claimed to finally be over her and had been pursuing Samantha Wright and she had walked up to him in the middle of the day and kissed him against the lockers, effectively ruining his chances with Samantha and starting an enormous fight. She had been impulsive and passionate, and had never felt that her actions, even when they were mistakes, had warranted regret.
But life was different now. She felt a weight of maturity hanging about her shoulders that hadn’t been there before she had lost her parents or before she had recognized whom Elizabeth truly was. She wanted to get back to a place where regret was a foreign concept, but each morning when she woke to fresh memories settling in her mind, she felt regret for being impulsive and imprudent, for casting a spell instead of coping. She had to cope now in a way that was very different than she would have if she had only moved forward and that required her to relive all the things she had loved about her life, and all the things that Elizabeth had hated.
The physical exertion of dueling helped. And, so did Harry’s company.
He never asked her how she was feeling or if she needed someone to talk to. There was a quiet grace about him, and their conversations focused on coursework, dueling tactics, Quidditch, and other bits and pieces of their lives that came up in relation to these other topics. He knew she was still collecting her memories, and he knew that she would talk about them if she needed to—and she appreciated this trust that had been given to her more deeply than she appreciated the worried look Hermione gave her every few mornings.
She couldn’t fault Hermione, though, for she knew she should be more open about what she was experiencing—especially with a witch as brilliant as Hermione. She just wasn’t exactly sure how to confide her recent feelings. She was a little all over the place, and felt silly as the cycle she was stuck in repeated each day with hope in the mornings, thinking that the memories had all come to her and she could finally settle herself, and frustration and anger each night as the memories continued to flutter in, some nights only one and other nights more. She sometimes woke exhausted by the effort of reliving her life. She could remember now the way she had pushed away so many of the Order members who came and went from Grimmauld Place—until George, who had given her an escape by joking with her, which had initially shocked her, then confused her, then charmed her. He would come and visit her in her room, until one day she felt the need to be downstairs when he arrived. Shortly after, her aunt had taken them to Hogwarts in the hopes that they could be eased into acclimation. She could remember too that during this reclusive time, her parents’ funeral had been held and her friends from America had come. She had dismissed them in her grief, and they had gone back home confused and emotional. She hadn’t received an owl lately from any of them, but she felt it was probably her responsibility to reach out first. She just hadn’t gotten around to it yet… How exactly do you apologize for taking your grief out on the living, and then repressing them with the help of a charm?
Without a good answer, she put off writing and put off confiding in Hermione, throwing herself instead into homework and dueling. Her thoughts abruptly ended when Harry set down his cup, and looked at her with determination. She had been lost in reverie and had forgotten herself, noticing that she had relaxed into a chair and her breathing had normalized.
“Another go?” He asked, extending his hand towards her.
“Let’s do it.”
Elizabeth watched her sister playing from the top step of the porch. They were six years old, and had only just moved to Maryland. May Davis, who lived around the corner, had come with her mother to introduce herself. Elizabeth looked over her shoulder briefly, noting the two women sitting in the living room. They held mugs, and exchanged chatter—talking the way women do in grocery lines. They took turns looking out the window to mind the children.
Elizabeth turned her eyes back to her sister, who was introducing May to her dolls. Evelyn had constructed detailed personas for her three favorite dolls, and often could talk endlessly about their thoughts, hopes, and aspirations. May watched intently, fingering one of the doll’s dresses as she listened. Intermittently, she would interrupt with a detail about her own dolls or a point of comparison, but mostly she seemed to just listen to Evelyn—the British lilt in her child’s voice making May wrinkle her nose unconsciously.
Elizabeth wanted to go over and discuss dolls; she had some of her own, though she had always considered them rather useless. Perhaps May would like to use one of her dolls, and they could play together? But no—she couldn’t. She felt so bound to her seat, unable, or unwilling, to move.
Her parents had often called her shy in conversations with other adults, and her mother tried to persuade her to engage with other children, but she preferred to stick close by the adults or to play on her own. Her father had been sterner with her, sometimes forcing her to go along with Evie even if she cried. She didn’t much care for the hapless confidence and outgoing nature of her sister. It often frustrated her. Evie had everything so easy; sometimes a dark swelling feeling filled Elizabeth up, and she couldn’t help it—she hated her sister. Her mother told her that wasn’t a nice word, and that it couldn’t be true, but she did. She looked at Evie and May, enjoying themselves and the stupid dolls, and she hated them.
She kept these thoughts to herself, watching a cellar spider crawl over her shoe. Leaning down, she picked up the spider and studied it for a moment. Then, she plucked off one of its legs and dropped it back down onto the ground.
Later that night, Evelyn cried when she discovered one of her doll’s heads had been pulled off.
Evelyn started up in her bed, the hurried anger and raw jealousy of the newest memory cluttering her mind. In these moments, she had to try really hard to separate her feelings from the feelings of the memory.
As she leaned back onto her pillow and started the mental sussing apart of those emotions, she wondered if her sister struggled as much as she did, but she felt she already knew the answer.
On the last Sunday of the month, Evelyn received an invitation from her aunt to join her for afternoon tea. Being issued an invitation felt a little too formal, but at lunch on Saturday, Minerva stopped her to confirm whether she was coming and encouraged her by adding that her Aunt Demeter would also be joining them. She noted that she had invited Elizabeth, but hadn’t heard anything from her and had Evelyn seen her lately, would she be able to confirm?
Evelyn scowled, and insisted she hadn’t seen her sister either—which was true. Even in the classes they shared, Evelyn ignored her was such vehemence that she couldn’t possibly claim to have seen her. Her aunt didn’t seem to notice the bitterness that washed over her niece, and she seemed too distracted to hear more than Evelyn’s acceptance of her invitation.
It was only a few minutes into tea when her aunts broached the subject, which would quickly prove to be the source of Minerva’s distraction.
“We asked you here for tea because there is something we want to tell you.” Aunt Demeter began, looking poised. She was wearing dark navy robes and the majority of the ink that usually stained her hands had been rubbed away, making her hands look fresh and pink as they sat wrapped around her tea cup. Evelyn had only just arrived, and their brief how are you’s were still hanging around. Evelyn could feel her brow wrinkle as Demeter continued, “Minnie and I wanted to tell you this, not because we regret what we did, but because we want there to be no more secrets between us—we want to help you, as much as we can. We can see you struggling, and we can be there for you.”
Her younger aunt looked at her affectionately, for all the world looking as if she meant it. Evelyn felt a sudden rush to confide in her, as she had in years past, but stopped short as Aunt Minerva started speaking.
“Perhaps just as importantly, we need to caution you.” Her face was set and serious. “We know that memories are still returning. Albus said that some may take years to come back, but there is one in particular that he felt we should warn you of…. It was a more recent one, so it seems more likely to come back to you soon.” She began to falter with her sentences, losing her steam and deferring to Demeter.
“We can’t tell you what the memory is about… because that may lead to another episode…. But we can tell you that it is a very significant event, and that it took place after you had come to England.” Demeter paused, her eyes softening even more if possible. “Evie, darling, when it comes back to you—you have to come to us. You and your sister. It’s imperative that you do.”
“Why?” There was a cold creeping feeling coming along Evelyn’s arms, which were bare. The room had been hot when she entered and she had taken off her robe. She wished she had worn longer sleeves underneath, or hadn’t taken it off—she felt insecure.
The sisters exchanged glances before Demeter continued. “Dumbledore fears that this memory may endanger you. That certain people may want that information, and that you may be at risk if the Order doesn’t intercede.”
“If he feels that way, why hasn’t the Order interceded already?”
“Because without the memory, you’re safe—you can’t tell anyone about it, and our information suggests that no one beyond the Order knows about it.”
Evelyn gave a curt nod, picking up her tea and trying to pull warmth from it. There is a secret, locked in my head, that may endanger me, she thought, attempting to let this new information settle.
“Have you told Elizabeth yet?”
Her aunts shook their heads, and before they could add anything Evelyn said, “Don’t. Don’t tell her.” They looked shocked, and immediately wanted to know what her reasoning was. Quickly, she lied, “She just isn’t in a good place right now, she’s still coping with a lot of stuff. I think it’s better if you let me tell her.”
Demeter, soft as ever, nodded with understanding. Evelyn was sure Minerva would see through her if she hadn’t continued on with that distracted look on her face. As she pondered the look, she felt compelled to ask, “Is that what you had to tell me?” The way her aunt’s distracted eyes snapped back to her immediately told her it wasn’t.
Demeter didn’t hesitate, simply replying, “No. There’s a bit more.”
“We felt it was time to tell you that we—we were the ones who caused your memory to return—we orchestrated the return---because, well there were so many reasons, Evie, and once Hermione—”
Again Minerva floundered and Demeter tried to help, picking up the sentence, “—once Hermione realized the truth, she came to us and began to give us more information on how the charm was affecting you, and we realized that you needed help and that you couldn’t even know that you needed it. So, we interceded before it was too late. We were all assured that the charm hadn’t been cast long enough do long-term damage, but we knew your health was waning. We couldn’t wait. We had to act.”
Evelyn was stunned by the admission. She felt suddenly as though she had been right to evade Hermione’s worrying look and that she had been right to withdraw emotionally. She had been right to pull those red curtains around her, meditating in solitude rather than seeking help. She felt a sense of betrayal boil up inside her and tears threatened. All this time, she had been filled with regret as she trudged through the moments of her life morning and night—and it had all been a setup, a relapse designed by her aunts. She felt betrayal on all fronts: first Elizabeth, now her aunts and Hermione.
She could hear the teacup rattle against it saucer, and it jarred her from her internal dialogue, just in time for her Aunt Minnie to repeat, “We felt this was for your own good. You weren’t doing well—you were wasting away.”
“You did this to me.” She said softly, looking at her aunt.
“No, you did this to yourself. I admit I enabled it, but I undid it,” Minerva sighed, her distraction gone but her shoulders drooping mournfully. Demeter opened her mouth to interject, but instead Minerva continued, “I didn’t do this to you.”
“I can’t believe you two—in conspiracy with my friend,” Evelyn fought the urge to throw the cup, her arms feeling heavy and her heart beating uncomfortably in her chest. “Or someone claiming to be my friend.” Her legs didn’t want to move, but she wanted to leave. She needed to leave.
Demeter was saying something, looking sweet and rational with earnest eyes pleading, but Evelyn didn’t hear a word.
“I can’t be here right now. I can’t listen to this.” She set her cup down, and collected her cloak around her. The cold feeling was gone, but she felt exposed. She didn’t want to cry in front of them. She hadn’t told them yet that the memories were still coming—that they weren’t as dramatic or as difficult as the first onslaught, but that they seemed to taunt her with their happiness. She hadn’t told them about Elizabeth’s actions or Elizabeth’s memories. They couldn’t understand what she was going through; no one could.
She hadn’t been honest with them, but they hadn’t been honest with her either.
They tried to stop her, to calm her down. Demeter stood when Evelyn’s legs finally started working, and she begged her to sit back down. Minerva remained seated, immovable.
Evelyn couldn’t stop herself, their placating postures igniting her. “You have no idea what it’s been like for me. Every night, reliving my life. Memories I didn’t even know I had. New memories—Ellie’s memories—coming in, and they’re dark. They’re so different from mine. But, can you believe I don’t know which is worse? Her depression or my happiness? Because either way, my parents are still dead—and I still made this choice. This damn stupid choice, and now I have to live with it.
“You have no idea what every day is like for me. I don’t want to write my old friends, and I don’t want to cry to my new friends because if I do, I don’t think I can stop. I am just now breathing again, and you knock me down with this—first that there’s something stuck in my head that will endanger me, and then that you set me up! I can’t trust you! I can’t breath in here, with you. I can’t breath.” She had worked herself up so much that her words were true, and her lungs seized. She was relatively certain that she was having a panic attack, though she’d never had one before.
Demeter reached out for her, but she pulled away, and her aunt’s fingertips just grazed the front of her robe. She let the momentum propel her, taking a step towards the door and not stopping until she was down the hall and on a floor that looked unfamiliar to her. By then, she was so short of breath she felt disoriented and she gasped awkwardly for air. She felt for the wall, and she used it to support herself while she closed her eyes and focused on her breathing. Tears came and went, and she stood there, grateful to be alone.
When she finally made it back to the common room, Hermione was waiting for her. Ron and Harry were seated at a table nearby, pretending to read their Transfiguration books, and they all knew—she could tell. Hermione hung near the doorway, taking a timid step forward before the firelight illuminated Evelyn’s tearstained face.
Hermione opened her mouth to say something, but Evelyn cut her off.
“Save it,” she snapped. She had wanted to say something more hurtful, something that would make Hermione feel the weight of her actions and something that would convey all of the struggles Evelyn had had since her memories returned. Somehow, as those words slashed at her friend, she knew those two were enough.
Chapter 22: Cleaving
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“Want to hear something interesting?”
Evelyn paused in the middle of the sentence she was writing to turn her eyes towards her partner, who was leaning back in her chair and twirling her quill. They were seated in a quiet corner of the library, and had been working somewhat diligently for an hour or so, which made Evelyn feel as though a break for a bit of conversation wasn’t too terrible of an idea.
Her partner for the assignment was Serenity Savior, a petite Ravenclaw with sharp eyes that creased a bit at the corner particularly when she smiled, as she was just then. She was a generally quiet person, which often conveyed a sense of mystery or an air of insightfulness.
Serenity had been assigned to the same table in the Herbology greenhouse as Evelyn at the beginning of the year, and the two had talked in passing as they trimmed, fertilized, or repotted. The acquaintance hadn’t been anything to boast of until recently, when Serenity took more of an interest in Evelyn—going so far as inviting her to sit with her at lunch after Herbology last week. It may have simply been that the quiet Ravenclaw was a little more comfortable with her now; however, Evelyn felt it was probably more likely that Serenity found her more interesting after her return from the Hospital Wing last month. It didn’t necessarily bother her, as Serenity didn’t question why she had missed class or what had caused the shift in her attitude, but she wasn’t sure what to make of it yet.
For this assignment, all of the students had been asked to pair off to complete a particularly lengthy essay, grounded in research and the work they’d recently completed in the greenhouse. It was due just before the holiday break. Normally, Evelyn would have chosen Hermione as her partner. (Hermione was assigned to the table nearby, and was often left to find a partner as Ron and Harry claimed each other.) This time, however, Evelyn had turned away abruptly from her housemate and had made a beeline for Serenity, who had accepted with enthusiasm.
This was just one example of the lengths Evelyn was willing to go to avoid talking to Hermione.
Despite sharing a bedroom, a bathroom, a common room, and almost all of their classes, Evelyn had successfully managed to say only six words to Hermione since her aunts had told her of their collusion and manipulation. The words had included “Can I?” with a deadpan reference to the bathroom door; “excuse me” when Hermione had tried to approach her in the hallway between classes; and two different instances of “no” when she attempted conversation, once in the common room and once when they were alone in their dorm room.
She had exchanged fewer words with her aunts, and wasn’t thinking of changing her approach any time soon. In fact, the only person she had talked to was Harry, who she continued to practice dueling with. When he had first approached her to confirm they were still meeting, she had hesitated. She told him she wasn’t sure at first, but he had looked at her with such earnestness that she felt compelled to keep the appointment. It was a particularly rigorous dueling session in which she took out much of her anger by repeatedly casting a trip jinx and only just failing to transfigure Harry into a rabbit—the reason being solely that his shield charm was practically impenetrable. It came down only when she cast a cutting spell in rapid succession, and, once it came down, she had charged him, casting a trip jinx as she hurtled forward to place the tip of her wand at his throat as his back hit the ground.
“Bested,” he had croaked, the wind knocked out of him.
Her chest had been heaving, and she had nodded curtly, waiting a beat before she withdrew her wand and offered him her hand. His hand was warm and sturdy against her palm.
A few moments later when they had seated themselves for a rest and were sipping water, she found herself unable to stop from saying exactly what was on her mind. Cocking her head towards him, she had burst out, “Did you know?”
He had stopped mid-sip, pursing his lips and shaking his head. “I thought something was wrong with you, especially after that night in the common room and the slip-up about Sirius, but I didn’t know. Hermione wouldn’t tell me. That’s why I was so angry with her then. “ He had paused for a moment, and looked away from her. He had fixed his eyes on the cup in his hands instead. “I—I was concerned. I thought the Order had been wrong about you. I was worried you were dangerous.” The admission had come out slowly, each sentence measured. She could still remember the way a few red blotches appeared on the back of his neck.
Her reverie ended as she placed her quill beside their essay, and leaned back in her chair. She fixed her eyes on Serenity, folding her arms and waiting for her partner to go on.
Serenity smirked in her quiet, confident way, “The word cleave is a contronym. It’s not the only one; I read once that there are less than a hundred though, and I think cleave is my favorite—”
“A contronym?” Evelyn wrinkled her nose, interrupting, “What is that?”
“It’s a word—a Janus word—you know, it’s a word that has multiple definitions that are contradictions of one another. It’s a homonym and an antonym at the same time.” Serenity’s sharp eyes sparkled, and she pointed to the word in a sentence she’d been reading in their Herbology book. She gave these explanations with a gentle airiness that didn’t convey arrogance or condescension. The smile on her face was genuine, and it was clear she really was sharing a thought that she found interesting, which Evelyn appreciated about her.
“So, what does are the definitions of cleave? I feel like I’ve only ever heard it used to refer to a split or divide, like a cloven hoof.”
“That’s the one,” Serenity nodded, “The other is to adhere closely.”
The conversation moved on, but the word swirled around in Evelyn’s head the rest of the day, coming back to the forefront of her mind later that night as she meditated behind her red curtains. Cleave, cleaving, cloven…. It was the perfect way to describe the state that she currently occupied.
As they were leaving the library, Serenity had asked Evelyn to join her and another Ravenclaw for the Hogsmeade trip that weekend. Evelyn had only just received permission from her aunt, and she had been worried that this would be the first weekend she would be able to go—and she would be forced to go alone. She had contemplated asking Harry, but felt that would have put him in an awkward spot. So, Serenity’s invitation was quickly accepted.
On Saturday morning, she dressed quietly in warm clothes and left the tower with only a nod and wave to Harry, who had been waiting with Ron in the armchairs closest to the fireplace. The castle felt drafty, and even from inside the winds could be heard pushing against the stones. It was snowing steadily, and Evelyn was pleased that she had taken a few extra minutes to put waterproofing and warming spells on her clothes. However, this had meant she was a few minutes late to meet Serenity.
The pair had agreed to meet in the Entrance Hall, and by the time Evelyn arrived, Serenity was already there. She was chatting with a boy, and as Evelyn descended the stairs she could see her check her watch before looking over in her direction. Serenity’s face split into a grin when she saw Evelyn, which immediately made her feel more comfortable. As she approached, the boy turned towards her. He was familiar looking and she knew they must have shared at least one class, but Evelyn couldn’t tell for certain what classes they might have been. He was much taller than Serenity—at least a full head taller—and he had dirty blond hair and warm brown eyes. He wore a simple black pea coat with his Ravenclaw scarf tucked down inside. As she approached, he held out his hand, his face open and a small smile on his lips.
“Evelyn?” She nodded, and he continued, “Christian Graves.”
She shook his hand and smiled. They talked hesitantly about the weather, which was somewhat typical but also safe, and then Evelyn ventured a small joke and they laughed together. Everyone seemed to sigh with relief—Evelyn in particular. It was still unclear to her why Serenity would want to initiate a friendship now, and she was still worried that it had more to do with the rumors about her than her person. But every time this uncertainty flared up, Serenity’s sharp eyes, honest face, and open posture cut it down. Christian’s body echoed all of these things, and as they left the Entrance Hall Evelyn wondered if perhaps she was being too self-conscious.
After all, not everyone was driven by a need to know, Evelyn thought to herself, pulling her scarf closer to her neck as they began the walk towards the village, Not everyone is Hermione.
The trio spent the afternoon wandering in and out of shops, eventually retiring to The Three Broomsticks when their faces felt chapped by the wind. Christian ordered a round of butterbeer, which Evelyn had never had before, and they found a table as far away from the door as possible. The atmosphere was cozy, and they fell into easy conversation—first about the Herbology assignment, which Christian had completed with Anthony Goldstein, then about classes in general, and then about what they might plan to do in the coming years.
Christian was hoping to pursue Healing or some subsection of that, “Perhaps a Potioneer or the like. I’m sure Flitwick will have some more concrete ideas when we have our mentoring sessions later this year, and make sure that I’m on track with my NEWTs.”
Serenity nodded, “I thought about medicine for a moment or so, but I just don’t think I have the patience for it. I think I’d rather do something that involves critical thinking or analysis. I thought for a while about different positions at Gringotts, you know? Ones that the goblins will allow witches to fill? Perhaps a Curse Breaker?”
“That sounds very fancy,” Evelyn smirked, “I should have known you Ravenclaws would have lofty career ambitions.”
“What? You don’t?” Serenity chided.
Evelyn shrugged, pausing momentarily. She hadn’t thought much about the kind of work she planned to do after school. “I’m not sure. When we were in America, I assumed I would work for the Magical Congress of the United States of America or be an ambassador like my mom, but I didn’t think much about what I would do there. I enjoy Transfiguration, dueling, writing…” She stared for a moment at her mug, which only had a bit of foam left in the bottom. “Everything’s different now, you know? I could stay here or go back to America, who knows. So much will depend on the war, I suppose.”
The Ravenclaws nodded solemnly. It was clear that neither of them had been personally touched by the war. Of course, they had recognized the names of some of the wizards and witches who had gone missing or been murdered in recent years—but they hadn’t really known anyone intimately. Serenity had mentioned that her mother had been particularly distraught in the summer over the death of someone she attended school with, but Serenity herself had never known him.
Evelyn tried to bring a smile back to her face, saying, “Well on that depressing note, perhaps we should head back before it gets too dark? I’m sure you both have some studying to do if you’re going to keep on track with Healing and Curse Breaking!” They laughed together briefly, standing and stretching their arms into their coats. The snow had stopped falling, but the wind was still blowing intermittently.
As they exited the pub, Evelyn could make out the shapes of three students ahead of them—and two more ahead of them. There were more in the distance, signifying that it was indeed time to get back. With only two weeks left before the winter holiday, there were last-minute assignments to complete.
Evelyn set a slow pace, despite the cold, as her eyes recognized the three ahead of them. She didn’t think now was a good time to come across Harry, Ron, and Hermione, though she noticed that they had noticed her as well. Hermione sent furtive looks over her shoulder every few yards, and Evelyn was sure she’d be asked to talk once she returned to Gryffindor Tower. She tried to distract herself with the continued conversation of Serenity and Christian, who were debating whether or not Anthony would like the Honeydukes chocolate they intended to give him for Christmas.
For a moment, students that were ahead of them disappeared beyond the crest of the hill they walked along, but when Evelyn, Serenity, and Christian came to the crest, they found themselves standing behind the group, who had paused in their walk to watch something. Evelyn furrowed her brow at Hermione, who turned her wide eyes towards her, but the look on the girl’s face gave Evelyn pause. She looked past Hermione quickly, and noticed that one of the students who had been walking ahead was thrashing on the ground. Her friend was nearby, looking stunned. With suddenness, the thrashing girl rose into the air, arms outstretched.
Evelyn looked down the line, past Hermione to Ron, then Harry, then Serenity, then Christian. Her eyes darted to the other girl, standing off to the side of them. No one’s wands were drawn. Confused, Evelyn realized the girl was floating on her own accord. The wind picked up fiercely again, and Evelyn could just make out the levitating girl’s face. Her eyes were closed, and her face was expressionless. Her body stopped rising, and she let out a scream. Out of the corner of her eye, Evelyn could see Serenity’s hands shoot up to her ears.
“Katie!” The friend screamed, looking horrified. The girl, Katie, remained expressionless, but her eyes had opened wide and she screamed without end. Evelyn had never seen someone suffer under the Cruciatus Curse, but she imagined his or her anguish to be something like this. Her gut wrenched.
Hermione had taken out her wand, attempting a few spells to no avail. Harry had broken from the group, disappearing down the path to find help. Ron and Christian moved forward, trying to reach Katie’s feet and bring her down. Nothing seemed to be working. Evelyn watched on, a nauseous feeling washing over her. She felt completely powerless.
Later that night, Evelyn found herself lying on her bed with the hangings open. She stared emptily, trying to work through everything that had happened after Harry had arrived with Hagrid and they had managed to get Katie back to the school. Professor Snape had stopped the curse, but Katie wasn’t better—no one knew when she might be. She’d been taken to St. Mungo’s that afternoon, and the students had been told to go back to their houses. Every time Evelyn closed her eyes, she saw the expressionless face of Katie, hair whipping around her and cheeks pale under the rough redness caused by the wind.
She heard the door to their room open, and soft feet padded across towards the bed next to hers—Hermione’s bed.
“I can’t stop thinking about Katie.” The other girl said softly.
Evelyn blinked a few times, forcing her eyes to move from the canopy that hung over her bed. When she looked over at Hermione, she noticed instantly that the girl was crying a bit.
“You tried everything you could, to help, I mean.” Evelyn said softly, “Who could have done more?”
“I know,” she wiped at her eyes, and Evelyn could see her steeling herself. “But someone did this to her, someone planned this.”
Evelyn nodded, rising up and swinging her legs to the side of the bed. “Do you think it was a student?”
“I’m not sure,” she sighed, shaking her head. “It’s obviously advanced magic, so I’m not sure I agree with Harry.” Draco Malfoy. The name jumped into her mind and Evelyn grimaced, remembering how Snape had dismissed Harry’s accusation when they were asked to go over what they’d seen.
She agreed with Hermione; the magic seemed a bit advanced for Malfoy or for any student.
The conversation lulled for a moment. Hermione slipped out of her shoes, pulling her feet up under her. She looked tired, and her eyes were still red and wet at the corners. Before she opened her mouth, Evelyn could feel the sentence hanging between them.
“I’m sorry, Evelyn, I never meant… I thought I was helping.”
Hermione bit her lip, nodding, “I know that now, but you’ve got to understand… I trust Professor McGonagall. I respect her. And when she first asked me to keep an eye on you, I didn’t know that we would become friends. I didn’t know what she would decide to do.” She looked down at her hands, “I don’t blame her or your Aunt Demeter. And I think you’ve got a right to be upset with me.”
“I think so, too.”
“But I hope you won’t hate me. I don’t want you to hate me.”
Hermione was still looking at her hands, and Evelyn watched her closely, waiting. She looked up after the pause between them, and Evelyn rolled her eyes a little pointedly. “I don’t hate you, Hermione. You’re my friend.” The sentence, which had gone unarticulated between the two of them, seemed to instantly relieve Hermione.
“Thanks,” Hermione said, her face more relaxed and a small smile coming to her lips.
“I’m still mad with you though,” Evelyn admitted, “And I’m mad with myself. I know that really this is all a consequence of my own actions, and I know that I was being selfish. Even Elizabeth thinks I was selfish…” She trailed off, wanting to add all the things she knew now, but hesitating. Instead she said only, “I wish I could tell you how this has all been, because it’s been… a lot…”
“Is there something I can do?”
Evelyn shook her head, rising to her feet as she realized Hermione wasn’t the only one she needed to make amends with. Her heart was heavy and her mind felt weighed down by thoughts of Katie, curses, and consequences. “I think I just need some time still. There’s still a lot coming back to me, and I’m trying my best to work through it. And to not resent anyone for it.”
Hermione nodded, the small smile still there but strained. Evelyn could tell that Hermione would have preferred something cleaner—an apology and acceptance that she could neatly box up and tuck away. Unfortunately, everything felt too messy for Evelyn right now. She could have probably accepted the apology and allowed Hermione to float along, pulling her with her, but she didn’t want to get lost in the tide. She knew she couldn’t float along anymore. Her first semester had been almost entirely wasted floating, and she needed to ground herself—to root herself back into reality and take things on. After this afternoon, she needed to never feel powerless again.
Evelyn slipped shoes on, and started to walk towards the door, noting aloud that she’d be back shortly.
Right before she closed the door behind her, Hermione spoke again. “You could tell me, you know? What it’s been like—when you’re ready, of course.”
Evelyn looked over her shoulder and nodded curtly. “When I’m ready.”
She left the dorm then, heading straight for her aunt’s quarters. As she walked, she thought over how much she would relate to Minerva. There were some things she wasn’t prepared to say aloud, including the fact of Elizabeth’s betrayal or the hatred that had skewed her sister’s childhood, and there were some things she wanted to keep for herself, but she knew she couldn’t keep her aunts or her friends shut out forever. Just from the look on Hermione’s face, she knew their intentions had been right. They had wanted to keep her safe, to prevent her from getting more hurt, and, ultimately, to bring her back to herself. The execution had been hurtful… But hadn’t she been the one who put them in this precarious position? Didn’t she have a share in the blame? She grimaced, feeling angry still. This time, however, she was primarily angry with herself.
Elizabeth sat close to the fire, and examined the letter she’d received that afternoon. Her eyes wandered again over the sentences she’d read three or four times through already:
My dearest Elizabeth,
We have received word that a Hogwarts student was cursed this afternoon by a dark object that is familiar within our circles. Though we know that the intention of this dark object was not fulfilled, I’d like to congratulate you for successfully cursing a Gryffindor mudblood. I heard once that one should shoot for the moon, so that if one misses one still lands among the stars.
Consider yourself among stars. You’re young, and we find no fault in your contribution to the plan—only hope in the promise of things to come.
He extends His congratulations as well, and has requested you be more involved in future attempts. The order will be carried down accordingly.
In other news, Cissy has asked me to extend an invitation on her behalf to Malfoy Manor for the winter holiday. The family will be gathering there, among others, and I feel it would be a good time for us to be together. You know I’d loathe seeing you go elsewhere or even to stay at the castle. Please write immediately with your acceptance, and you can expect Cissy to collect you from the platform when she comes for Draco.
He has encouraged this as well. He will be joining us, and felt the holiday would be a good opportunity for a private audience. (How He honors you!)
She knew that Draco had received a very different letter.
The owl had delivered both letters, only an hour after they had received news that Katie Bell had been cursed instead of the headmaster, and she had watched as anguish pulled at the corner of his eyes. He was furious, disappointed, disheveled even. He had spent the rest of the day away from the house, doing god knew what with god knew who. His reaction was foul, and it had surprised her deeply. She tried to feign indifference, but came back to Bella’s letter again and again—trying to understand what elevated her above Draco, other than His need to discipline the Malfoy family.
The common room had emptied slowly with many students staying up later than they typically did in an attempt to complete assignments for the end of term. She didn’t quite realize she was waiting for Draco to return until she caught herself looking at the entrance for the third time as the door opened, a student scuttled in, and it wasn’t him.
It was well past midnight when he finally returned, and she was the only one in the common room. Instantly, she felt the irony of the situation. Barely a month ago, it had been him watching her, waiting for her, calling out to her from across the dark common room—and now, here she was, doing the same thing. She felt a little annoyed by the role reversal, and vowed to herself to not let it happen again.
“There you are,” was all she said. It drew his attention. His course changed, and he walked with a confident—swaggering—stride towards her. When the firelight reached his face, she could tell he had been drinking.
“There you are.” He growled.
“Where have you been?”
“Out, mother.” His tone was sardonic, and she was instantly annoyed with him.
“Don’t waste my time, Malfoy.” She moved to get up, but he placed his hands on the arms of her chair and leaned over her. He didn’t respond, instead staring down at her with thoughtful drunkenness. The posture would have been more intimidating if he didn’t smell like whiskey—and if he hadn’t been such a prick. “Move,” she said, her annoyance clear as she tried to stand. He wouldn’t back down.
“Were you waiting? Hmm—were you worried?” He brought one hand up to her face, turning her chin towards him. She met his eyes, her annoyance turning to anger. She felt foolish for waiting; hadn’t she been the one trying to avoid him, trying to shake him from her tail? “Do I have your attention now?”
“I don’t worry about you, and I don’t attend to you.” She wrapped her hand around his, pulling it away from her face and pushing him back so that she could stand. He held onto her hand, using the momentum to pull her towards him. Caught up in his arms, he kissed her hard on the mouth. His lips were Firewhiskey.
She wasn’t sure who broke the kiss, but as soon as her senses came back to her she reached up and slapped him. The hard smacking sound seemed to reverberate across the common room.
“I said don’t waste my time, Malfoy.” She repeated, taking Bella’s letter and walking quickly across the common room and up to her dorm.
Author's Note: Thank you to all of my readers who have been moving through this story! I'm always so delighted to see new reads, and hopeful that you're enjoying the evolution of Evelyn and Elizabeth. You've been so patient while I've been working and away, and I'm glad to have finally stolen a few minutes this weekend to post another chapter. I've got quite a few written already, and am hoping I'll have time next weekend too to get something up. I really love what's ahead, and think you will, too!
Credits: Much of this chapter is dependent on the writing of J. K. Rowling, particularly Chapter 12, "Silver and Opals," of Harry Potter and the Half-blood Prince.
Chapter 23: Break
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December brought with it a feeling of normalcy that Evelyn hadn’t realized she’d been missing. Though Hermione was experiencing an exciting new disgust for Lavender Brown and Harry seemed a bit obsessed with Draco Malfoy (since Katie’s cursing), the castle seemed to be settling into a snowy lull in the final week before break.
Nevertheless, Evelyn was still having a hard time sleeping some nights. During those wakeful hours, she would stare at the red velvet canopy that hung around her four-poster bed. Sometimes, she was able to distract herself with the settling of memories that had arrived during the hour or so she’d managed to sleep. Most nights, however, she thought about Elizabeth.
She had managed to forgive Hermione and her aunts, and was trying daily to forgive herself. She had pushed on with her friendships, including Serenity and Christian. She had reached out to her friends in America, who eagerly replied with more empathy and kindness than she felt she deserved. She had pulled her aunts close, regularly writing Demeter and having Sunday tea with Minerva each week. She felt as though she was actively working through her grief, for the first time, and she was starting to feel more herself than she had since June. However, on those nights, she would wake with a heavy, longing—perhaps even foreboding—feeling.
She wanted revenge and, in those dark hours, she began to plan.
Evelyn didn’t mention these feelings to her friends, who took happily to her uplifted attitude, which came with the wit and sarcasm that her Aunt Demeter described in one letter as “the missing bit of you that the world couldn’t live without.” Demeter had always had a way with words that Evelyn hoped to emulate.
She was seated in the common room on the last evening before break, working on a reply to her aunt’s most recent letter. All of her assignments had been submitted, and she hadn’t needed to pack yet as she would be staying at the castle with her aunt for break. They would be traveling to Grimmauld Place for a few days to celebrate the holiday with the Order, and then were contemplating spending a few days at Demeter’s home in Westminster.
Evelyn had noticed that, despite Elizabeth’s constant refusal to join them for tea, her Aunt Minerva still anticipated she would join them for the holiday. Evelyn kept a closed lip when Elizabeth was mentioned, and tried not to let her face show too much. Minerva had noticed that the girls weren’t speaking in the Great Hall or between classes, but after reviewing a few of Athena’s letters from the previous year, she had come to the conclusion that this was normal—and didn’t bring it up to her niece.
Evelyn pushed Elizabeth from her mind, turning back to her letter, where she was laying out the holiday plans that she’d talked over the previous Sunday with Minerva, and she added a few repeated assurances that they wouldn’t mind if Demeter’s place was messy or if she had a deadline that distracted her during their stay. As she wrote, Harry came down the boy’s staircase and took a seat in the chair next to her.
He was on his way to Grimmauld Place the following morning, which she knew made him much happier than the prospect of staying at the castle or, worse yet, going to stay with his aunt and uncle. He waited quietly until she was done with her letter, watching her thoughtfully but also looking about the room. It was rather quiet and relatively empty, with some students still finishing their work but most in their dorm rooms.
“That was kind of you,” she said, setting down her quill and picking up the letter, blowing on the ink to ensure it was dry before she folded it. His eyes came back round to her, and he looked confused until she added, “Waiting so patiently for me to write this novel of a response.”
He smiled a little, running his hand through his hair. “Of course, the least I could do.”
“All done packing?”
“Almost,” he nodded, “You’re lucky, not having to pack at all.”
“Not having to pack yet, you mean. I’ll have to do it later, the only perk being that all the other girls will have taken their things away and I can focus only on my clutter.”
“When will you be coming to Grimmauld?”
“I think Aunt Minnie plans to come on the 23rd or 24th, right on the cusp of the holiday. She is insisting she doesn’t want to be away from home for too long, but I know that she doesn’t like to infringe on the kindness of others.” Evelyn raised a brow a little, knowing that the house belonged to Harry after the death of his godfather, which meant that her aunt particularly didn’t like such a favor from her student.
Harry blushed a bit as he always did when his social standing came into play. “And how long will you be staying?”
“Just until the morning of the 26th, I think. At least that’s what it seems. I’m about to owl Aunt Demeter, and see if she’ll have us that day for a short getaway in Westminster. Then we’ll be back here until after the New Year.”
“With no chance to get away, you think?”
Evelyn paused for a moment, smiling at Harry. “I think you can spare the holiday, Harry—we can start practicing dueling again as soon as we come back.”
He looked at her with a funny expression, and then shook his head, “No, that’s not what I meant—I wasn’t thinking of dueling.”
She waited for him to continue, but he seemed a bit lost for words. She could see him thinking, and wasn’t sure if she could give him the time to puzzle it out or if she should jump in with an assumption.
She settled for, “Oh?” and turned her eyes back to her letter, folding it carefully and sealing it. She’d have to walk it up to the Owlery or wait until the morning to send it off, and she wasn’t sure if it was after hours yet. She turned to look at the clock, and Harry still hadn’t said anything.
“Right,” came finally, a little truncated, and she wondered what he was playing at. His face was hard to read in the firelight and she wasn’t sure if he was just nervous or if he was just making conversation.
“I’m headed to the Owlery, I’ve still got some time until the Prefects are about. Fancy a walk?”
Right then, Ron came through the portrait hole, demanding Harry’s attention. They rose together from their seats, Evelyn hanging back with her letter in hand as Harry went towards his friend. It was the first time in over a week that Evelyn had seen Ron without Lavender connected to his face, and, without another word about the walk, she left the common room for the Owlery. Harry, who had planned on accompanying her despite this opportunity for reunion with Ron, only caught a glimpse of her as she disappeared through the portrait hole—and, along with her, his chance to ask her out.
The next morning, Evelyn came down early to breakfast to stop at the Ravenclaw table and say goodbye to Serenity and Christian, who would be leaving with the others on the train later that morning. When she returned to her table, the post had already arrived and Hermione was holding an envelope out to her. It was shaped like a greeting card rather than a letter, which seemed unusual.
“This came addressed to you,” Hermione said, sipping her tea. “It landed in my potatoes.”
Hermione and Harry watched on as she opened up the card, which was indeed a holiday card with a glittery dove on the front. In it’s beak was a banner, proclaiming “Happy Holidays!” There was a folded piece of parchment inside, obstructing the message, and Evelyn placed it in her lap before turning her eyes back to the card. Messages were scrawled across it, surrounding the printed greeting—all from her friends in Maryland.
Your letters come far too slowly; I hope you’ll take mom up on the offer! – Lacey
How did your exams go? I’m sure you did well. As I said in my last letter, you are very missed. The boys aren’t nearly as funny without you. Well, Devon is—but you know I’m biased there. Can’t wait to see you! – May
Merry Christmas. We miss you. (Who the hell thought it would be a good idea for you to move so far away?) – Bobby
May misses you, and she’s demanding I tell you the truth and say I miss you too. It is the truth. – Devon
Come home. – Theo
Evelyn read the last one a couple times, just thinking about seeing Theo again. She hadn’t realized she had missed his handwriting—all of their handwriting. She’d been so accustomed to seeing it when they shared notes or wrote to one another in class, and there it was, staring back at her. Each hand different than the next.
She handed the card to Hermione, who had been watching her curiously, and turned her attention to the piece of parchment in her lap. When she opened this piece, two other pieces fell out, and Hermione reached for them to prevent them from tipping onto Evelyn’s plate. She barely noticed the other girl pick up the pieces, though, her eyes skimming the letter. She recognized this handwriting as well; it was Lacey’s mother.
My house has not been the same without you this fall, and I know that Lacey has missed you fiercely. So, I reached out to your aunt a few nights ago, and she’s given me permission to borrow you for the holiday. (If that’s okay with you!)
I know you had some plans already with your aunts, but Minerva has said that the visit to Demeter can be pushed back to the Easter holiday, which means you can come to us after Christmas and stay until New Years Eve. Almost a week.
I’ve included an extra ticket as your aunt felt more comfortable with you traveling with a companion, and I’m happy to host whoever you’ve deemed worthy of calling a friend—I know you’ve got good taste.
In the meantime, we’ll be making your favorite things, and preparing for your arrival.
Evelyn’s eyes were round when she finished reading, and she turned to look at Hermione, who was holding the two tickets in her hand. She smiled at her friend, taking the tickets and looking them over. They were for the international floo network, with permission from the Minister of Magic for departure on December 26th and arrival on December 31st.
For a moment, Evelyn was silent and overwhelmed. She couldn’t believe the kindness—or the fact that her aunt, who had said nothing to her about it, had already approved it. She was overwhelmingly pleased that she’d be able to spend the holiday with her new friends, as well as her old, and wouldn’t miss the holiday celebrations at Grimmauld Place, which she’d been looking forward to. In fact, it presented itself so perfectly to her that she could barely believe her luck.
“How exciting, Evelyn!” Hermione said, smiling. She had handed the greeting card to Harry, who was perusing it wordlessly.
“I almost can’t believe it! A chance to go home and see them all—and Hermione, of course, you’ll have to see if you can come with me.”
Hermione looked surprised. “Are you sure? You could take someone else?” Her voice faltered a bit, and it was obvious that she was holding back from suggesting that Evelyn take Elizabeth. The two friends hadn’t spoken of the outburst in the hall or the fact that Evelyn had apparently disowned her sister, but Hermione knew the separation of the sisters was related to the return of her memories—and Evelyn hadn’t felt the need to tell her more just yet. Perhaps she would have if Hermione and she hadn’t been estranged for a couple weeks, but until her aunts knew, Evelyn didn’t want to tell Hermione or anyone else for that matter.
“No! There isn’t anyone else—my friends will love you, and we’ll have such a good time. Do you think your parents will mind?”
Hermione shrugged, “I was planning on staying at Grimmauld Place anyway—I’m sure they won’t mind since they weren’t expecting me to begin with.”
“Write them and see! Then we can plan properly.”
Hermione looked alit with excitement, and began to ask questions that only Hermione Granger would think of. The two volleyed back and forth, and Evelyn didn’t notice the sullen look on Harry’s face, his eyes stuck on the lines from her friends, wondering which one of them was the one Evelyn had alluded to on occasion—the one she called her childhood sweetheart.
An hour or so later, Evelyn and Hermione were still going back and forth with their planning when Evelyn walked her friends to the Entrance Hall to say goodbye. Students were heading for Hogsmeade in long lines, towing trunks and cages behind them through the snow. Harry and Ron were walking behind them, talking about Quidditch standings. Lavender, for once, was nowhere to be seen.
The group paused in the Entrance Hall near the doors.
“I’ll see you all in a week or so.” Evelyn said, looking a little sad at their going. She hadn’t expected to feel that way, but she worried about her holiday with her sister—almost alone in the castle. So few students were staying behind. With the return of the Dark Lord, many parents wanted their children to come home just so that they could ensure they were safe.
She offered Ron a hug, which made him blush a bit as he muttered “See you soon then.” Then she hugged Harry, whose arms were stiff around her but who gripped her tightly. His embrace was comfortable, and she eyed him curiously when they pulled apart, wondering why he felt more distant this morning than he had before. Then she hugged Hermione, who insisted she would write as soon as she spoke with her parents and they could continue planning.
The three were about to exit through the doors, taking up the back of the line, when a loud voice cut through the hall.
“I am not staying here.”
“What do you mean?”
It was her aunt and her sister. Evelyn turned to watch the conversation, along with the other students who were lingering with friends in the hall. The doors were open, and cold air worked its way through, setting the tone for the conversation.
“I’ve been invited to stay elsewhere.”
“Elizabeth! I demand you tell me where you’re going—I’m your guardian.” Aunt Minerva looked astounded, and her voice was a bit shrill.
“I don’t give a damn what you are. I didn’t choose you—I wouldn’t have chosen you.” Elizabeth’s tone was bitter and disregarding. Her long blonde hair fell down her back as she moved to walk away, her head held high. She was rude. Evelyn thought about stepping forward to tell her aunt to let her go. Perhaps it was time she told her aunts everything she knew. She felt sorry just then that she hadn’t told them already. Minerva looked flabbergasted.
“In fact, consider yourself dismissed,” Elizabeth added flatly, “I’ve found a new guardian, better suited to my needs.”
With that, Elizabeth turned away, walking with Hera Manos and Rhett Addington. Evelyn’s eyes followed her through the doors, where she saw Draco Malfoy meet them. A knot in her stomach tightened, and her eyes turned back to her aunt, who was watching Elizabeth go, mouth agape and eyes wet.
By the time the train reached Kings Cross, Elizabeth felt lighter. She was certain her aunt would continue to hound her for information, but she felt she had taken the first step in shedding the McGonagall clan. Though there was a small part of her that would miss her aunts, she knew she was better off without them. They would only hold her back—and she needed to move forward, to continue working on the task and to build traction among the Death Eater circles.
She exited the train with her head held high, her trunk floating behind her. Draco helped her onto the platform, and guided her towards a tall woman standing away from the crowds and holding her purse tightly against her chest with both hands. Elizabeth knew immediately from the flippant gaze and cool features that this was Draco’s mother. She eyed each of the families that past her on the platform with skepticism, and looked a little disgusted when someone brushed against her on their way towards the barrier. After the person disappeared, her eyes found Draco coming towards her and her face changed entirely, lighting up with pleasure.
Draco went towards her, and she received him with open arms, which made him blush. Elizabeth hung back momentarily, turning towards Hera and Rhett who had hung about them as they attempted to find their own parents.
“Should I worry about impressing her?” Elizabeth asked quietly, holding her head high still but feeling a little insecure.
“No, she should worry about impressing you.” Hera said smugly, leaning forward and kissing Elizabeth on both cheeks. “My father is over there waiting. I’ll owl as often as I can.”
Rhett kissed Elizabeth on both cheeks as well, wishing her a happy holiday and then escorting Hera towards her father. She watched as he placed his hand on her lower back. They looked quite posh together, and she knew her first letter to Hera would include ponderings on their relationship.
“Mother, let me introduce Elizabeth Castell.” Draco’s sentence drew her attention, and she turned her eyes towards Mrs. Malfoy. She took a few steps forward, lifting her trunk into the air wordlessly and setting it down beside her as she closed the gap between them and extended her hand.
“Enchanted,” Mrs. Malfoy said, her voice smooth as ice.
“Likewise” was all Elizabeth could muster. She could feel Mrs. Malfoy’s eyes working their way across her, studying her features—looking for flaws.
After a beat, Mrs. Malfoy said, “Lucius and I are honored to host you this holiday. We reviewed preparations this morning, and everything was in order. We’ll be hosting a gathering to officially welcome you later this week,” she paused, looking briefly at her son, “Until then, you and Draco will have time to work, which has been strongly encouraged.”
“That sounds lovely, Mrs. Malfoy. I’m sure we will both benefit from this time together.” Elizabeth did everything in her power to say these things with a smile on her face. Beside her, Draco smirked, and if they’d been alone she would have knocked him in the head. She still hadn’t forgiven him for being such a snob the other night, but she hadn’t had a chance to let him know. He had been on his best behavior since her eruption at her aunt, avoiding her for the majority of the train ride and then escorting her around like a Victorian gentleman as soon as the train pulled into the station.
They continued to converse meaninglessly, filling the air between them, as Mrs. Malfoy led them from the platform and through the barrier. She looked even more uncomfortable on the Muggle side of the station, and Elizabeth was surprised they hadn’t found a workaround to having to exit this way. They quickly left, though, and were welcomed into a car by a driver.
Elizabeth could feel the magic in the cabin, a sense she had been working to develop with Bella on His orders.
“I’ve been instructed to give you this.” Mrs. Malfoy said as soon as the door snapped shut behind them and she had settled into the seat beside her son. She held out a letter for Elizabeth, who immediately recognized His handwriting. She would have been entirely consumed by the letter if she hadn’t been distracted by Mrs. Malfoy, who kept tidying Draco’s jacket, fixing his hair, and staring at him with untamed admiration—all of which Elizabeth looked forward to mocking him for later.
Evelyn had written a quick letter to Demeter, informing her of the incident between Elizabeth and Aunt Minnie in as few words as possible, before heading to her aunt’s quarters for dinner. The Great Hall would serve dinner to the students who remained, but her aunt had insisted they act as though no one else was there, and they had planned to spend a great deal of time together. Most of Evelyn’s things had been moved into the spare room in her aunt’s apartment, and she wouldn’t have to return to the Gryffindor Tower unless she wanted to.
The rooms were quiet when Evelyn entered, and she wondered at first if her aunt had decided to forego their seclusion after the scene that morning. However, she spied her aunt in the chair next to the fire. She appeared to have a drink in one hand, which looked remarkably like Firewhiskey though she’d never seen her aunt take a drink in her life. She didn’t look up as Evelyn moved towards her.
“Aunt Minnie?” Still, no response. “I think Aunt Demeter will be coming along as soon as she can…. I wrote her. To tell her what happened with Elizabeth.”
Minerva was quiet still, taking a sip from her glass. When she spoke, Evelyn could tell it was with reluctance. “That was probably best.”
“I also received an owl from Harry Potter. Elizabeth left the platform with the Malfoys.”
Minerva turned wide eyes towards her niece, and she looked older than she had before. She was silent again for a long time. Evelyn relaxed into the back of her chair, struggling to find the right words to tell her aunt everything she knew. Before she could begin, Minerva spoke.
“Your mother and your father weren’t going to baptize you girls, you know. They weren’t going to choose godparents. Our mother, your grandmother, was furious. But, Athena thought the right person would step up to the plate if anything happened to her. And your father wasn’t religious at all, so he felt it was just easier that way.
“It wasn’t until Lily and James—Harry’s parents—were killed that they changed their mind. You seemed almost too old to be baptized then, but your mother was so insistent that the priest agreed to it rather than fighting.”
Evelyn watched as her aunt’s face warmed in the firelight. She was so pleased to hear her speak of her parents, particularly as this was a story she hadn’t heard before. Just then, it felt nice to have a story instead of a memory.
“I hadn’t really realized that mom and dad knew the Potters. I knew they were friends with Remus, who was friends with them, but mom never mentioned them.”
Minerva nodded, sipping her drink again. “They were very good friends, actually. She never talked about them much, after they were killed.” She paused, getting to the dregs in her glass and finishing it off. “I think perhaps she shouldn’t have chosen me. Demeter may have been better for you girls. Demeter wouldn’t have allowed this to happen to Elizabeth.”
Evelyn bit her lip, still not certain how to begin. She fumbled with her ideas, finally beginning with, “It wouldn’t have mattered. Elizabeth made this choice a long time ago.”
The story came out hard and awkward, and she stumbled through it as best she could. She began with the memories from childhood, which seemed to speak to Elizabeth’s deep hatred for her father and for her and her discontent; then the outbursts at the Academy and the times when her bullying became too violent; then the voice, which Evelyn suspected to be somehow connected to the Dark Lord or his followers; and then with the memory of her sister being made the secret keeper. Halfway through, Demeter arrived and she was forced to start over. She reached the same conclusion, however, unable to ignore the evidence building against Elizabeth. She told them too of their fight in the hall, and of her conviction that Ellie had wanted to cast the amnesia charm to hide these things—not to suppress her emotions, as Evelyn had wanted.
By the end, both of her aunts’ cheeks were wet. Demeter looked angry—betrayed—and Minerva looked deeply saddened. No one spoke for a long time. After what seemed like years, Demeter said, “All this time, you’ve been getting her memories?” Empathy was etched across her aunt’s face, and she knew that they finally had a better sense of how much more burdensome the return of her memories had been than they could have anticipated; it was an unforeseen side effect, and she was still coping with it.
Evelyn nodded. “They’re just memories though. I haven’t gotten anything more recent. I don’t think our minds collected memories the same way during the amnesia charm—everything I’ve received from her is before that, and I don’t think I’ll get anything afterwards.”
“So she won’t know that you’ve told us?”
“She might suspect it, especially after today’s display. But I don’t think she’ll care. I don’t think she’s cared in a long time.”
Demeter nodded, chewing on her fingernails a bit. She did this whenever she was working through something, and the ink that was on her fingers stained the corner of her mouth.
“We’ll have to tell Albus—and the Order.” Demeter said finally, looking at her sister. All this time, Minerva had said nothing. “There must be something we can do, that they can do?”
Finally, Minerva spoke. “Perhaps. Or, perhaps, she’s lost to us forever.”
Author's Note: I feel so horrible for taking so long to update! Especially because this chapter has been written, and I've been wanting to get it up. Unfortunately, I've been caught up in a lot of "adulting" lately. Most of it has been good... but some of it has been messy, and difficult, and disheartening. (But, let's focus on the good, right? I'm trying.) I want to thank all of you lovely people for reading and waiting, and for staying with me. Leave a comment and let me know what you think! I've been reflecting a lot of the balance between exposition and dialogue, and want to know your thoughts.
Depending on the queue, I'm hoping to get another chapter up before the holiday... But if I don't, happy holidays to all of you! You're wonderful, and I hope your season is bright.
Chapter 24: Yuletide
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When Minerva and Evelyn stepped out of the fireplace at Grimmauld Place on December 23rd, Molly Weasley greeted them, and immediately took some of the packages from their arms and dusted off their shoulders. A fire crackled happily in the hearth behind them, and the house looked warmer than it had over the summer.
Molly seemed surprised but pleased by Evelyn, who gave her a brief hug before allowing herself to be shooed out of the kitchen. She could now remember being an unpleasant houseguest over the summer, particularly towards Molly whom she had resented for constantly trying to feed her. Now, she hoped to right any of the misconceptions there had been established by her bad behavior. She knew it was what her parents would have wanted her to do. These were their friends, my aunts’ friends, she had thought when she was getting ready that morning for the journey to London.
Perhaps more importantly, they were members of the Order of the Phoenix.
Her aunt had decided to leave on the 23rd rather than the 24th because there was an Order meeting scheduled for that evening. Evelyn knew that the news of her sister was weighing heavily on her aunt, and that she would take the opportunity of the meeting to share the recent revelation. Paired with Elizabeth’s departure from Hogwarts and her apparent stay with the Malfoy family, Minerva was assuming the worst—despite Demeter’s optimism.
Evelyn could feel the dread seeping off of her aunt. She tried not to think on it. Whatever the Order decided, she had her own plans.
She moved from the kitchen and into the nearby sitting room. The house felt distantly familiar to her, and she was pleased to find Harry sitting there reading The Daily Prophet. She was sure Ron and Hermione must be nearby.
“Hey stranger,” she said softly, leaning against the doorframe.
He peaked around the paper, smiling at her. “Hey, you’re here.”
“Looks like it.”
“Break been treating you well?”
“So far—I wish time would slow down though.”
“Really? I thought you’d be desperate to get away to the States.” He dropped his paper entirely, and sat up in the chair, his body language inviting her into the room. She entered, taking a seat in a chair near his.
“I’m looking forward to it. Nervous though,” she bit her lip briefly, leaning onto the arm of the chair and looking around the room. “I’m just feeling happy here, and I’m glad that I’ll have the holiday here—I finally feel settled. Does that make sense?”
Harry’s jaw was set, and his gaze was intent. It was difficult to read his expression. “It does.”
“I’m worried going there will make things unsettled.” This sentence was quieter than the others.
Harry was about to reply when Ron and Hermione entered, bickering needlessly. Hermione ended her sentence prematurely, however, and instead exclaimed, “Evie! You’re here!”
“Appears to be so!” She said cheerfully, and Harry thought her tone sounded a bit forced. “When did you arrive?”
“Only last night,” Hermione said, taking a seat. Her parents had given her permission to travel with Evelyn, and she proceeded to go through a few items that she had packed that she was skeptical about but had felt they may be necessary. On more than one occasion, Ron rolled his eyes.
Later that evening, Harry knocked on the bedroom door of the room Evelyn was staying in. He had been sent by Mrs. Weasley to inform her dinner was ready, and to encourage her to come down. Mrs. Weasley had said this last part gently, as if she assumed Evelyn would need reassurance.
Harry had been first at school and then with the Dursleys when Evelyn and her sister had come to Grimmauld Place, so he hadn’t been there to experience how dismissive and horrible she had been—which Ron had told him his mother had told him and which had been shared only after Hermione had refused to tell Harry her suspicions, and he had began to inquire into the Order’s understanding of Evelyn. Knowing what he knew now, her dismissiveness and petulance made sense. In fact, it seemed comparable to how he had acted after Cedric’s death. He cringed a little, thinking back on the time and how much more difficult it would have been if he had been simultaneously removed from his friends.
It was moments like these that made him feel as though Evelyn’s experiences were akin to his own, and he felt a deep empathy for her, which had grown over the last month. Paired with his respect for her dueling skills and his appreciation for her wit, he couldn’t help but want to know her more. He had been hoping that they might be able to get away from Grimmauld Place and the Order for awhile over the holiday—he had imagined them going off, maybe walking through Diagon Alley together and finding a warm corner in the Leaky Cauldron to talk over tea.
Something gnawed at him when he thought that she would be leaving in a few days and, when the words of those three guys from America, sprawled across the card she had received their last day in the Great Hall, came unbidden into his mind, he couldn’t decide if the feeling that gnawed was disappointment or jealousy.
“Come in,” her voice came through the heavy door. He hadn’t even realized he’d knocked.
“Mrs. Weasley sent me,” he paused, taking in the scene. She was stretched across the bed, the boots she’d been wearing earlier abandoned nearby and her toes, covered in some type of black tights, in the air. She was lying on her stomach reading, and the blue dress she wore had scooted up, the excess fabric wrinkling around her waist. She looked away from her book, smiling at him. He wanted to do more than talk to her in a warm corner over tea. Instead, he choked out, “Dinner.”
She swung around, taking a moment to pull on her boots and grab a patterned sweater that was flung over a nearby chair. “Is it always so cold in here?” She asked casually as she moved to put on the sweater. She kept missing the arm, and Harry leant forward to hold it up for her. Her back turned towards him and, as her curls tickled his nose, he inhaled and said nothing. She smelled like treacle tart.
“Thanks,” she said softly, turning back towards him.
He smiled brusquely, and motioned for her to move out into the hallway ahead of him. As they moved down the hall together, the voices of Ron and Hermione carried up to them. They were bickering again. Evelyn paused at the top of the stairwell, looking over the banister to the couple below.
“I think Ron’s upset about her leaving with you.” Harry said softly, leaning onto the banister alongside Evelyn.
“Really? But, what about Lavender?” She whispered back, crinkling her brow.
Harry rolled his eyes. “That’s a long story.”
“Hermione’s been furious about the whole thing, you know.”
“I know,” he exhaled. He wondered if he would be too obvious if he let his arm rest against hers on the banister.
“A galleon they kiss?” Evelyn said after a few minutes of listening to Hermione berate Ron for being selfish.
“You’re on—I’ve been waiting for them to snog since our second year. That was when the bickering truly began.” Harry chuckled softly, eyeing his friends below. She met his chuckle with a light giggle, and Harry smiled thinking again about how much he would have liked to get away with her, if only for a day. He tried to push the thought away, because he knew if he let it linger there it would quickly evolve from images of them talking to images of him kissing her to images of her kissing him back. He felt immediately that he wasn’t being realistic; it didn’t seem likely that she was interested in him beyond friendship and dueling, and it didn’t seem smart to enter into anything right then. His meetings with Dumbledore had shown him that things were only going to get more complicated moving forward. He knew—he knew they both had issues they were working through, and he knew that having to deal with another person, having to worry about another person would only complicate their lives—and yet the images kept coming back.
He allowed himself to be distracted by Hermione and Ron, the latter ending the argument by throwing up his hands and walking into the kitchen, saying, “You’re impossible! If you’re going to continue on like this, can you at least do it while I eat?”
Harry knocked his elbow against Evelyn’s, turning towards her. “Looks like you’re a galleon poorer this time around, Evie.” He pushed himself back from the banister, moving towards the stairs to begin the descent down.
“Pity,” she huffed behind him, “I think they’d both be better off if they just went for it.”
“Maybe,” Harry paused, thinking it over, “It’s hard to tell. So much is undecided.”
“But if he would rather be with her than anyone else?” She crinkled her nose, “Why wait? Especially when so much is undecided—we have no idea what might happen these days.”
“Is it that simple?” Harry could feel himself getting a little defensive.
“Isn’t it? I hate to be this way, but we could all be dead tomorrow. Hermione’s thinking about it too much, I think.”
“Well there’s a lot to think about.”
“And a lot to do—there always is.” She smiled, reaching out to touch his shoulder as she steadied herself coming around the bend and towards the kitchen. “That’s not an excuse to hold back.”
“They’re not holding back!” He was more defensive than he meant to be, and he knew why. It felt like she was talking directly to him. Perhaps, if she’d shown the slightest interest in him, he would have stopped her there and kissed her in the hall. He wouldn’t have waited another moment. But something seized up inside of him, unsure and hesitant.
Evelyn looked slightly surprised, but conceded as they came through the door with a light, “If you say so,” before moving from his side towards the open seat next to Hermione.
Harry spent most of dinner scowling.
Christmas at Grimmauld Place was a quiet affair, though many Order members, including Remus, Tonks, Alastor Moody, Kingsley Shacklebolt, Professor Dumbledore, and Evelyn’s aunts, joined them. Mrs. Weasley made a special dinner, and she seemed pleased to have almost all of her children under one roof—plus so many other people to fuss over. Evelyn loved watching her fuss over Harry, who was bashful about the attention.
After they finished eating, there was a small exchange of gifts in the living room and the Order members happily fell into conversation, exchanging old stories.
Remus began with stories of Evelyn’s and Harry’s parents, who Evelyn had known to be friends only from her recent conversation with her aunt, but who Harry was surprised to learn knew one another. Remus noted that they had all been friends—himself, Sirius, James, Peter, and Ian, and the girls, Lily, Athena, Paris Savior (who Remus explained was, indeed, Serenity’s mother), and Marlene McKinnon.
Evelyn had heard some of these stories before, as Remus had come to America to visit a few years ago and had ended up staying for almost a year, working at the embassy with her mother until he was let go. It was then that he decided to return to England and Evelyn had heard he taught at Hogwarts for the following year. Remus was Evelyn’s godfather.
She relished the old stories, which seemed to have more details now that her mother wasn’t there to chide him. Interspersed were her Aunt Minnie’s perception of the same events or moments from her own studies at Hogwarts as well as stories from Demeter and Tonks, whose shenanigans seemed to rival the Marauders, as Remus fondly referred to his friends.
As the stories grew more outlandish, Evelyn felt herself drawn towards Harry, who had settled into the sofa next to her. Her eyes often caught his when their parents were mentioned, as if there was a secret part that only they could know. Perhaps, if their parents had lived, it would have been true. She liked having that connection with someone; without Elizabeth, she wasn’t sure whom she could turn to with memories of her parents. She knew her aunts would understand and that Hermione or Serenity would be sympathetic, but this was a different emotion hanging between her and Harry—something beyond understanding, more akin to vested interest or even nostalgia.
During one particularly engaging story, Evelyn realized her hand had come to rest on Harry’s. She tried to catch his eye, but he was looking at Remus. He hadn’t pulled away, and he didn’t seem to mind. In fact, he seemed to have raised his fingers up in between hers, interlocking them.
It was curious, to realize this had happened but to not remember how or when it had happened—as if it had just occurred like a habitual motion. Perhaps what was more curious was how natural it felt to sit there, surrounded by friends and family, and hold Harry’s hand. She felt somewhat self-conscious about it, but she tried to ignore it, which became harder once she realized that Hermione had noticed as well.
The party broke apart slowly, with Moody and Dumbledore leaving early, and Kingsley dragging Tonks away, citing an early workday the following day. Aunt Minnie had already gone to bed by the time Tonks reluctantly agreed to leave. Remus, who was also staying at the house, eventually moved into the kitchen with Demeter to open the bottle of Firewhiskey she had brought with her and to keep reminiscing. Fred, George, Ginny, Ron, and Hermione remained for a while with Harry and Evelyn, telling their own stories and reflecting on the ones that had been shared. Eventually though, the twins departed for their apartment, above the shop, and Ginny asked Hermione to help her with taking the gifts upstairs before they went to bed. Ron went in search of a snack, scowling when Hermione insisted he should feel inclined to help his sister. (They were still sore with one another.)
These slow departures eventually left Evelyn and Harry alone. The fire was warm, and they could each feel the butterbeer they’d consumed throughout the evening warming their cheeks. Evelyn, who had risen to hug the twins goodbye earlier but who had settled back into her seat in the couch realized that she was comfortably squished next to Harry, though the couch no longer demanded that close proximity. He wasn’t holding her hand anymore, and she wondered if he had noticed it had been happened in the first place.
“Did you know about our parents? Being friends?” Harry asked, leaning towards her. The fire was still roaring heartily, and the light danced across his glasses.
“Aunt Minnie told me just a week or so ago, actually. She was talking about something else, and mentioned your parents. My mother hadn’t really ever talked about them.”
“They say that thing about the world being small, and I guess it’s so,” he mused.
She chuckled, nodding in agreement. “I guess so—I wonder if we met as babies, our mothers getting together to see one another and bringing us along?”
The idea seemed to shock him a bit, and wonder settled on his face.
“Did I look familiar when you first saw me?” She asked coyly, turning her head purposefully to the left and then the right. “They say babies have excellent memories.”
They chuckled again, Harry saying softly, “If that’s true, then we must have never met as babies. I would have remembered that face.”
She paused in her movements, her eyes trained on him. They weren’t too far apart on the couch, occupying each other’s intimate space as it were. She could feel his breath, hot on her cheek, and she tried to ignore the sudden sensation that felt like her stomach was upside down. He held her gaze for what seemed like an eternity, his body leaning towards hers.
For a moment, she was sure he was going to kiss her and she realized quite abruptly that she felt no desire to stop him. The feeling in her stomach couldn’t be ignored.
“Mate, are you two—“ Ron was coming back through the doorway, loud and sudden.
Harry and Evelyn snapped back to reality, moving apart. The feeling in her stomach seemed to expand, and she could feel her cheeks heat up more than they already had. She was blushing. Oh Merlin, she thought. She looked at Ron, trying to find the words to make this whole thing seem nonchalant and she noticed that his ears were already bright red.
“Oh! Sorry about—” He cut himself off, walking backwards through the door. They heard his hurried feet up the staircase.
She looked back at Harry, whose eyes were dancing and they laughed a bit, breaking the awkward tension that had worked its way between them. She smiled, mentally noting how lovely his green eyes were in the warm firelight. She didn’t want to, but she stood, feeling the cold floorboards soak through her socks and head straight for her brain, which was oddly sobering.
“Another time, I suppose,” was all she could manage before she left the room, her own feet making the same hurried noises up the staircase a moment later.
When Harry wandered up after her a few minutes later, he found Ron in his bedroom looking sheepish and mildly surprised.
“You alright?” He asked.
Harry shrugged his shoulders, avoiding Ron’s gaze.
“I didn’t know you fancied her.”
He ran a hand through his hair, trying to decide how to respond. He knew it was foolish to allow himself to fancy anyone at the moment. He was preparing for battle. Getting involved wasn’t an option, was it?
Down the hall, Evelyn couldn’t sleep. She wondered briefly if Hermione was still awake, and if she might be able to help her think through this. Harry had almost kissed her. She was fairly certain she hadn’t imagined it, that if Ron hadn’t arrived it would have happened, and that, perhaps more importantly, she would have enjoyed it. (Unless he was a terrible kisser, which she felt certain couldn’t be true. His lips were too nice to be bad, she mused.)
She felt too warm in her bed to venture out, just to risk having to wake Hermione. They were leaving early the following morning; it could wait, she assumed.
She tried briefly to conjure up Hermione in her head, and tried to think of what her friend would say to her. If she expressed her fears that her relationship with Harry may be like her relationship with Theo, Hermione would have dismissed her. She could imagine her saying I haven’t met Theo of course but from what you’ve told me, I can tell they’re quite different. I don’t think you would have to worry about that.
She thought that was a good impression of Hermione.
Nevertheless, she continued in her thinking, Theo had left messy footprints behind that she couldn’t ignore, and, since leaving Maryland, things had only gotten messier. Was it even the right time for something like this?
I’m not sure. Logically, no, it’s a terrible time. But is that a good enough reason? Hermione-in-her-head responded.
Evelyn flipped onto her stomach, trying to get comfortable and shove these thoughts from her mind. She thought about their conversation about Hermione and Ron, and how easy it had been to be open-minded about another couple coming together at this time. She thought about how guarded and defensive he’d been, which didn’t surprise her as much now as it had then. These thoughts churned, keeping her up well into the night, and each time coming back to the same conclusion.
She couldn’t help herself. She wished she had kissed him.
Author's Note: I'm currently writing chapters thirty-four and thirty-five of this story, and it's refreshing to be posting these initial chapters to see where Evelyn was and to know where she is going. I'm trying to balance the drama and action with these more lighthearted chapters, especially as the feelings between Evelyn and Harry grow, and I would love to know what you think of the balance! You'll have to let me know what you think of the balance.
The next chapter is dedicated entirely to Elizabeth, who is having quite the time at Malfoy Manor. Can't wait to share it with you all! In the meantime, happy holidays.
Chapter 25: The Wild Hunt
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“I don’t like it.”
“I’m sorry, miss, but this is the dress—“
“I know,” Elizabeth scowled, looking down at the witch who was stooped next to her examining the hem of the garment. “But I don’t like it.” She emphasized the last four words, letting the syllables come out condescendingly slow.
The seamstress was a meek woman, and her voice was thin when she replied, “I’m sorry, miss.”
Before she could offer anything more than her apologies, Elizabeth cut in. “I want it fixed. Now.”
“But, miss, we don’t have time!”
“You’re a witch, aren’t you?”
“Well, yes, but—”
“But what? Fix it.” Elizabeth was frustrated, and she knew the woman could feel all of that negative energy directed towards her. She knew she was being a snob, but the seamstress was feigning incompetence—and they both knew it would only take a bit of spellwork to fix the dress. She looked at her reflection again, and knew she was right. It needed to be perfect.
The dress was for the celebration, held in her honor, the following day at Malfoy Manor. Draco had shown her the guest list, going through names to give her context. As far as she was concerned, everyone she needed to impress was going to be there. Perhaps, most importantly, the evening would allow her to have her first private audience with Him since her marking, and she needed Him to feel confidence in her. How could she be expected to do that if she didn’t feel confident in herself? The dress would help. The dress she could control.
Still looking at herself, she began to list the changes she’d like to see: “I think it should be black, but stunning black—not dull black. Perhaps something embroidered and jeweled at the neckline or waistline for emphasis. A classy amount of skin, as this is a cocktail dress. Something that feels powerful, in terms of silhouette.” The witch was listening intently, eying the cream colored A-line cocktail dress that she had been instructed to make for Elizabeth. The woman who had ordered it had said the girl should look pure, even innocent. The dress the girl was describing now sounded nothing like that.
“Miss, you’re sure? That’s very different from the original order.”
Elizabeth turned from the mirror, and nodded icily. The seamstress looked a little weary, but began to move her wand with a shaky hand. She could feel the material transforming on her, but she didn’t allow herself to look until the witch said that she was finished.
Elizabeth turned back around on the pedestal that had been placed in her bedroom at the manor, and looked at her reflection in the large mirror that leaned up against the wall. The satin cocktail dress was midnight black with a thin line of diamonds stitched into the waistline. The neckline was just shy of plunging, and the dress was fitted to her body, stopping at her knee. She looked a little older than she was, and she felt powerful and mature.
“You’re dismissed,” she said, smiling at her reflection.
Elizabeth careful stored the dress in a garment bag, and placed it in the armoire in the bedroom, where she had unpacked her belongings after her arrival. She had reluctantly returned to her plain dress and tights. A knock came to her door, and she called out to indicate it was all right to enter. Draco was there, as he was most days, staring into the room with eyes on fire. Every time he looked at her in that bedroom, she knew he had was thinking about her in that bed, in this house, and how he felt about it.
They had spent many of their days discussing his progress with the vanishing cabinet, and had even gone to Knockturn Alley to see the mate. The library at the Malfoys offered a small collection of books on magical objects, and they had been researching the mechanics of the cabinets in an effort to see how they might repair the set. She felt confident in this plan, though Draco did continue to think of different ways in which they could get to Dumbledore. She kept reminding him that the necklace had been a bust, and that they should focus their energies on this plan, which was much more direct and didn’t hinge on people they couldn’t control acting in the ways they hoped they would. When she’d make this point, he’d scowl and then reluctantly concede—until he came up with another option.
She felt strongly that this was driven by fear of failure, which she could understood.
“Yes, though it wouldn’t have taken nearly so long if it hadn’t been for that witch.”
“She did look a little kicked when I saw her escorted out by the house elf. What did you do to her?”
“I didn’t do anything to her,” Elizabeth objected, moving towards the doorway and closing the distance between them. He never entered the room unless she explicitly asked him to, and she wondered whether this was an instruction that had been given to him from his father or if he was worried that if he came into the room he wouldn’t want to leave. “I just told her what I wanted, and that I expected to have it.”
Draco chuckled, pushing a strand of her hair behind her ear. It had fallen into her face as she walked across the room. She let his hand linger on her jaw for a moment before leaning back against the doorway, opposite him.
“Did you need something?” She asked.
“I came to tell you that my parents have gone out for the evening. They said dinner would be prepared for us, and that we should relax as tomorrow will be very busy.”
“Dinner will be served at seven, I assume?” She asked, and he nodded in response, allowing her to pose the next question on her mind, “What should we do with the next hour then?”
He smirked a bit in reply, and she could see the thoughts spinning in his mind. He hadn’t tried to kiss her since she had slapped him in the common room before break, and he had been very reserved—not just in his reluctance to enter her room, but while they worked together as well. Perhaps that was just who he was at home, she considered, but she suspected it was based in something else that he hadn’t shared with her.
“I could think of a few things,” he muttered, bringing his hand back to her jaw. She didn’t pull away. She had spent a lot of time thinking about his hard lips on hers by the fire, and how angry he made her.
“What might those be, Master Malfoy?” She smirked a bit, using the title the house elves used.
He took a step forward, closing the gap between them, smirking as he did. “I was told to keep my distance, but I’m not sure I can do that if you’re going to call me master.”
After dinner, they found themselves in the drawing room sitting close to the fire. Draco had arranged cushions on the floor after Elizabeth complained of a draft, and their legs were tangled together, competing for space under a blanket.
“What will tomorrow be like?” She asked quietly. Her eyes were on him, but he was looking away from her and into the fire. The light danced in his eyes, and he felt far away.
“Everyone will arrive early in the day, and the men will separate from the women for a light meal and the hunt. The women will stay here, along with any children. I’m not quite certain what the women do, though I think it is mostly talking.”
She sighed, knowing she would be relegated to this group. “I’ll be with them then?”
“I assume, though Aunt Bella may have different plans for you—she doesn’t often do well with sitting and talking, and I can’t imagine you doing well with it either.” He didn’t look from the fire, but he smirked. He was thinking of her.
“You’ll hunt? That doesn’t seem to suit you.”
“It’s my duty.”
“What happens after the hunt?”
“We dress from dinner, and then there will probably be cocktails while the Dark Lord holds a few private audiences.”
“He doesn’t attend the hunt?”
Draco shook his head, “Only on rare occasions. My father has said that he use to participate often when he was younger, before the fall, but since then, no.”
“Is that when we’ll have our audience?”
“He’s asked to meet with just me as well.” She said softly, and Draco finally turned towards her. His expression in that moment was unreadable. He didn’t say anything until she continued with another question. “After? We’ll dine, I assume?”
He nodded slowly, breaking eye contact and turning his eyes back to the fire. Whatever had come over him had passed. “And then there will probably be dancing. That’s the part you should be most worried about, I think.”
She raised a brow, “Really?”
“That’s when the men make their moves. That’s when the power plays come.”
She let the silence stretch between them for a while, turning her eyes to the fire as his were. The flames danced in front of them, and she could feel herself growing more and more comfortable with him. Then, she asked the question she’d been holding back since he’d kissed her in the doorway, since they’d broken apart for dinner, since he had begun to move his legs against hers under the blanket like he knew her body.
“Draco,” His eyes came to her but she kept staring straight ahead as he had. “What did you mean when you said you were told to keep your distance?”
He was quiet for a moment. “When we arrived, my father told me to keep my distance—to be respectful and productive, but to keep my hands to myself. He had heard rumors that I’d been courting you at school, and he said that it couldn’t continue.”
She turned her eyes to him then. “Don’t I meet the Malfoy family standard?”
“It’s not that.” His eyes met hers and his stare startled her. “The Dark Lord said you’re not to be touched.”
The following morning happened just as Draco said it would. As the men prepared to leave, the women gathered near the fountain in the courtyard to see them off. The men who had otherwise seemed ordinary upon their arrival had transformed into huntsmen, huge on their black horses. Black hounds huddled around, a few howling into the cold Wiltshire air. Elizabeth had wrapped herself in a woolen winter cloak, and had chosen to keep close to Draco and Rhett, who had arrived with his parents. Hera was there as well, and was standing near her father towards the back of the group. They kept exchanging glances, and Elizabeth realized that, for her friend, this was just another holiday. This was normal.
Before mounting his horse, Draco leaned over to Elizabeth and said softly, “Wish me luck, darling.” His gloved hand came to her jaw again, and she smiled despite herself.
“Don’t call me darling.” She replied, walking away from him but not breaking his gaze until he was forced to look away to direct his horse. She watched his retreating figure until he disappeared beyond the yew hedge.
Narcissa found Elizabeth in the crowd as the women moved back into the entrance hall and into the drawing room. “Did he seem nervous?” She asked politely.
“No, though he rarely does.” She said, smiling toothlessly.
Narcissa nodded, pursing her lips in a way similar to how Draco did when he was mulling something over. She was about to say something when Elizabeth saw Bella coming towards them, moving against the flow of women. It was the first time she’d seen her that day. Bella kissed her sister on both cheeks, holding her hands tightly, before turning towards Elizabeth and embracing her briefly. The gesture seemed odd for someone like Bella, but Elizabeth accepted it nevertheless. She was fond of her, the way she expected she might have been fond of a sister (other than Evelyn).
“I’ve come to steal you away,” the older woman admitted, placing her hand on Elizabeth’s shoulder. “We’ve got a bit to discuss before this evening. I hope you’ll excuse us, Cissy?”
“Of course,” Narcissa nodded, smiling in a tight, polite way and moving away from the pair towards the center of the drawing room, where she began to say a few words of welcome while Bella took Elizabeth’s arm, and steered her away. She didn’t say a word to the younger woman until they had entered into a large bedroom near the main hall, where an anteroom was prepared with two chairs and a blazing fire.
Bella gestured towards one of the chairs, and Elizabeth seated herself on the edge, watching as Bella summoned a house elf with a flick of her wand and ordered refreshments. She too seated herself, then, and proceeded to cut right to the chase.
“As you know, the Dark Lord has requested a private audience with you this evening, and I thought it might be beneficial for us to spend some time together discussing what this audience may entail.”
Elizabeth nodded curtly, relaxing into the chair. “Is this audience you’ve alluded to separate from the one that I’m meant to have with Draco?”
Bella nodded, “Yes, there are a few topics he’d like to discuss without my nephew present. He’s been particularly guarded about this, I’ll admit.” Her tone took a dive that conveyed her frustration, but she continued on. “But, He has made it clear that He has great hopes for you.”
“I have suspected that,” she admitted, looking at her hands and wishing she had a cup of tea—or something stronger—to distract herself with. “Based on your letters and His.”
“He’s written to you?”
“Only on a few occasions.” Bella’s face said more than she could have possible said aloud, and Elizabeth tried to ignore the expression. “I feel as though I’m held above Draco, and perhaps other younger members, but it’s unclear why. Draco was furious about it to be honest after we received letters following the cursing of Katie Bell.”
Elizabeth blushed a little self-consciously. She felt she could be candid with Bella, who she recognized as a high ranking member of His inner circle—if not the highest-ranking member—and who she respected as a mentor. As she was also Draco’s aunt, she knew that she had hopes for his success as well. (Though she knew better than to acknowledge that the main reason for the direct correspondence was that He was contemplating killing her sister and brother-in-law; she would never betray Him.)
Bella nodded, smiling. “Draco will take issue with your ranking above him; that doesn’t surprise me. He is like his father and his uncle frankly. It’s easy for pureblooded men to feel as though they should outrank the women around them. But the Dark Lord doesn’t feel that way. He recognizes the power in women like you and me.
“As for why he feels this way about you, I know it stems from multiple places. He has indicated that he can sense a power in you, and that he intends to focus our energies on fostering that power—mine and His. He also feels as though there is a kinship between the two of you. Those were his words. He refused to elaborate, but I expect that he will later this evening with you.”
“Well then,” Elizabeth conceded, pausing as a house elf arrived and deposited a cart with tea and small plates arranged on it. The plates were covered in cheeses, crostini, nuts, fruit, and dried meats. She continued as soon as the house elf excused itself. “I look forward to meeting with Him.”
“You should. Very few in your position have been received this way, and He has repeatedly honored you. I want to stress this to you—as I recognize you’re unlikely to know the ways in which these circles have historically moved.”
While the women continued to socialize in the drawing room and the men hunted, Bella and Elizabeth practiced sensational magic. Once Bella felt as though she had made progress, they also practiced some wandless and nonverbal magic. Bella was satisfied by the time they heard the heavy footsteps of men in the entrance hall, and said that she would report to Him that Elizabeth’s letters had been accurate in tracking her progress and that, with continued work, she may be very competent in all areas by summertime. She felt that, depending on how the conversation that evening went, she may expect to be offered a few private lessons by the Dark Lord himself.
The whole experience was humbling, and she parted from Bella quietly to return to her room and dress for dinner.
She was preparing to exit her room when a familiar knock came, and the door opened to reveal Draco. He was wearing dress robes that had been tailored so well that they seemed to move with his body. The hunt had brought ruddiness to his cheek that made him look slightly more rugged—slightly wilder—and she felt something clench and churn inside of her.
“You look good,” she said quietly, smiling a bit as he reached forward and put his hand on her jaw. The gesture was familiar now, and there was a piece of her that relied on—and reveled in—the familiarity that had arisen from this private time together in this place outside of Hogwarts, where they existed separate from the people they had to be within those walls. This rush of feeling caused her to add, “Perhaps we should stay here in this room, hidden away for the rest of the evening?”
“I wish that were an option.”
They both knew it wasn’t, and she took the arm he offered her and allowed him to escort her to the ballroom. She said few things as they walked, still feeling the quiet weight that she’d carried with her since her conversation with Bella.
“Nervous?” He asked just as they approached the ballroom. Laughter and music could be heard, and warm light spilled into the dark hall.
“Perhaps,” she admitted, “I think it’s more than that though.”
His look was quizzical, but she didn’t have time to elaborate. They were at the doorway and eyes were turned towards them, a few people turning to Draco near the door to shake his hand. Her arm left his, and the feelings dissipated. She was floating near his side until she saw the crowd part and Hera coming towards her. She took steps towards the friendly face, and noticed an arm outstretched towards her.
“Hurry, drink,” her friend joked. “These things are miserable sober.”
She nodded, taking a large sip of what was definitely straight Firewhiskey. “Where were you this afternoon? I had to listen to my mother talk to these women without anyone to shoot knowing glances to.”
“I was with Bellatrix.”
Hera nodded. She knew they corresponded regularly, but she didn’t know much more beyond the rumors that were floating about Draco and Elizabeth’s work. They were all rumors, and Elizabeth had refused to confirm or deny anything, though she knew her actions didn’t do much to conceal the truth. Hera knew they were working on something—she just didn’t know what. She was sure the girl would be shocked if she did know, and she wasn’t certain how her friend would take it. She’d hold off as long as she could. At least until the cabinet was functional.
“Where’s Rhett? I thought for sure he’d be hanging off of you.” Elizabeth changed the subject, motioning towards the strapless cocktail dress Hera was wearing. It was black like Elizabeth’s, fitted in the bodice and flaring out from the waist. It was much shorter, and the heels she had paired with it were much taller.
“I thought he’d be hanging off me too,” she admitted, “But I haven’t come across him yet. I swear everyone I’ve ever met is in this room.” She was right; the ballroom was full of people. The men were wearing rich dress robes, and the women cocktail dresses in every style imaginable. Conversations flowed as easy as the Firewhiskey, and she noticed Narcissa and Lucius had found their son, and they stood in a small group on the other side of the room with another couple and their daughter. She wondered if this was a girl that Draco might be interested in—might have already been familiar with. She wondered if this was a girl that Draco was allowed to touch rather than stealing moments with hesitant hands and angry kisses.
He caught her staring, a small smirk coming to his lips, and she turned away after holding his gaze for a moment. Rhett was walking towards them, and soon they were in conversation with other people, and she was received with niceties and smiles. People came and went from their circle, eyes alighting on her, as some were familiar with her name or her work. A few congratulated her on the cursing of Katie Bell. One man looked at her critically, whiskey on his breath as he said, “I had no idea the girl who accomplished that cursing was so beautiful.”
She smiled coyly, replying, “I’m happy to admit I’ve got as much brains as I’ve got beauty.”
“Then you must be the brightest witch in your year.” He continued, leering a bit and leaning towards her. She realized then that these must have been the plays Draco warned her of, and she noted too that this must have been mild as she was sure this man knew just as Draco did that she wasn’t to be touched. Her eyes drifted to Hera, who wasn’t untouchable. Rather, she was scowling openly at a man who was standing next to her and cupping her backside. Rhett looked like he was about to throttle the man, but as it was clear he was outranked he held back.
Elizabeth was relieved to see Bella coming towards her. She didn’t even feign sweetness when she caught sight of the man she was talking with, a look of disgust settling on her face. “Excuse us, Rookwood. Miss Castell has been summoned by the Dark Lord.”
Bella led her out of the ballroom and down the hall, into a bedroom chamber similar to the one they had shared earlier that afternoon. The anteroom was prepared in the same way with the Dark Lord seated with his back to the door and Peter Pettigrew hovering nearby. Elizabeth gave him a look of disgust; she hated the way he always lingered around, sniveling and gross.
“Thank you, Bellatrix,” His voice came smoothly across the room, and he rose to greet her as she moved to the side of his chair. “You may go.”
Elizabeth knelt before him, as Bella had told her to, and when He offered His hand to her, to place hers in His without looking up. His hand was cadaverously cold. She heard the latch of the door lock behind Bella, and the only other noise in the room was the wheezing breaths of Pettigrew.
“Rise, child, and sit. We have much to discuss.”
She did as she was told, taking the seat opposite Him and waiting patiently to be spoken to. She had habitually been an observer, and it wasn’t difficult for her to sit under his gaze and wait. She sat tall, poised to begin. She took a moment to recognize the magic in the air, and all the sensation of its power wash over her, as she had practiced earlier.
“Yes, the room is filled with rare magic—it’s my doing.”
“I assumed,” was her soft reply.
“This type of magic comes with great study, study which I intend to offer you. If you are ready and willing, Elizabeth.”
“I have looked into your mind and know that you are being truthful, but I call you here tonight to ensure that you understand the ramifications of this offering. It is not a simple gesture. Yet, when I look into your mind I know that you are capable of mastering the magic that I have mastered—that with my guidance you could lead as I have led.
“Thus, in the event that I need a successor, I have chosen you.”
“You believe that you may need a successor?” She had many questions, but it was this one that came first.
“I am immortal, Elizabeth. I do not believe that I need a successor, but I do believe that it is imperative that my line is preserved. I have done other deeds to ensure this—but you present an opportunity. Do you know the depths of your talent? Can you articulate your loyalty to me? Have I not engendered a kinship between us that displaced all others, even those of blood? I know it to be true, your mind tells me, as do your lips and your letters. You and I have much in common, and your power is of my own. Let me be a father to you, and you an heir to me.”
It felt right, then, to kneel before him again, and to place her hands in his lap, holding his hands again. “My Lord, thank you for this honor.”
“Do not kneel before me. Rise, child. You shall be my sub-equal, stationed at my right hand as Bellatrix is stationed at my left.”
She did as she was told, her face flushed and her heart rate increased. She knew not how to thank Him. For so long she had yearned for a father who wanted to raise her, to nurture her—and here was this man, this powerful man, who wished to do that for her.
“You do not have to thank me. It is an honor to take his place.” The Dark Lord said softly, reading her mind. She could feel his presence there, in her mined, and she allowed it, relishing it.
“You will continue to work alongside the Malfoy boy, and will report regularly to Bellatrix what you have accomplished. If you feel that you need to contact me directly as news may upset her, particularly if the boy is floundering, then do so. I will guide Bella in her responses, and will arrange for lessons—most likely in the summer when you are away from the school, and when I anticipate many of my current projects will have reached their goals. You can plan to make your home with me or my followers moving forward, as you have this winter; I assume this will suit you as I heard of your dismissal of your aunt.” His face twisted into a smile, and she felt pride. She nodded. “I will introduce you to my followers this evening, and will establish you in their circles. And, when the time comes, I will arrange for your betrothal.”
He nodded, his gaze penetrating. “As any father would. It is the goal of all pureblooded families to continue on, and I expect you to do the same—with a man suitable to your rank.”
“You will do all of this—for me?” She asked softly.
“I will take care of you.”
His face was solemn, and she believed Him. She believed every word, and her heart hardened with determination to serve Him and pride of place. She wondered still why it had been her, but she didn’t ask. Instead she trusted. He would tell her when the time came. He would guide her. He would care for her.
It was not until very late in the evening that all the guests had gone. Elizabeth could still feel herself glowing, thinking on her private audience with the Dark Lord and His introduction of her. He did not yet venture to call her His heir outright, but He did use words and phrases that emphasized the importance of her role in His plans for the demise of Albus Dumbledore and the conquering of the Wizarding World. She could still feel the eyes on her, the ones that had followed her all evening, as different men and women had tried to find excuses to introduce themselves (and, very often, their sons). When she wasn’t with Bella, she had kept close to Hera and Rhett, who helped her navigate the crowd and had kept her supplied with drink.
She hadn’t seen much of Draco after their private audience, which had mostly been a discussion of why the previous attempts had failed. Draco had insisted beforehand that he didn’t want to discuss the cabinet until they had successfully repaired it; until then, it was just a theory, and he knew that theories would not be tolerated. The Dark Lord was curt and at times dismissive of Draco during their audience, which she was certain was particularly humbling for him in front of her. As the meeting went on, she noticed the way his knuckles tightened around the arms of his chair. She wished she could reassure him, to tell him that it was safe to have this conversation in front of her—that she didn’t think less of him because of it—but she didn’t want to show that side of herself to the Dark Lord. It was too vulnerable. So she sat steely in the chair beside Draco, only speaking when spoken to.
She had begun to undress when that familiar knock came to her door again. Picking up a black silk robe, she tied it hastily over the black lace slip she’d worn beneath her dress and went to the door. She held the door open hesitantly, checking to see that it was indeed him before swinging it open further.
“There you are,” she said softly. He looked tired, though she noticed immediately he was holding a bottle of Firewhiskey and two glass tumblers.
“Invite me in.” He said gruffly, his eyes too soft to match his tone.
“Draco, would you like to come in?”
He smirked, nodding and nudging past her, briefly grazing her jaw with the hand that held the bottle.
He quickly set his wares on the floor near the fire, then grabbed the decorative pillows from her bed and fashioned them a spot near the hearth that looked comfortable enough. Her head was already floating a bit, but she felt she couldn’t deny him this time—he seemed so earnest, stooping in the firelight to fix pillows.
“Where’d you disappear to all evening?” She asked, moving towards him after pushing the door closed. She was satisfied with the sound of latch clicking into place, but wondered if she should lock it. Then she wondered what that might suggest, and decided against it.
“My father wanted a few words after our audience, and then my mother paraded a few girls past me.” His tone was bitter. “I see you didn’t save me a dance.”
“I didn’t dance at all. I was too busy being introduced to nearly everyone—particularly the ones with sons.” She rolled her eyes a bit in the hope of offsetting any jealousy. “Rhett and Hera kept me company.”
“Sweet of them,” he said shortly, pouring generously into the glasses. He picked one up, handed it to her, and held his out to her.
“Cheers,” he paused, “to the coming out of the heir of Slytherian.”
The liquid caught in her throat and she locked eyes with him over the glass rim. He was staring back at her intently, but having more success getting the drink down. His glass was empty when he lowered it from his lips. She pulled hers away, still half full, and watched him as he filled his again and topped hers up.
“Who told you?” was all she could muster.
“My father.” He was still staring at her, but his eyes weren’t cold. He wasn’t angry. She wasn’t sure what she had anticipated his reaction to be, but this wasn’t it. “It’s why I’m not allowed near you unless asked, why my father hasn’t been able to look you in the eye since you arrived—have you noticed? It’s why it’s okay for you to be apart of a failing plan.”
Perhaps that last part was said with some anger.
“I don’t know why it’s me,” she whispered, drinking more and feeling her body lean towards Draco as if they were conspiring together. Perhaps they were—perhaps that was what this had always been: conspiracy and occasional kissing.
“I know what you’re thinking,” he said after a few moments, “He’s not the only one who can read minds, you know, and it’s been more than that for me.”
She hadn’t even felt him there, in her mind, and she hurried to push him out, blushing.
“I’m serious, Elizabeth. There’s something about you, I can’t—I don’t know what it is.” He finished another glass and poured again, his face beginning to flush. “My father asked me to watch you at the beginning of the year, to learn everything I could. And when you were assigned to aid me, I was furious, but perhaps that was just masking. I can see what he sees in you. The power. What’s worse, I think, is you know it’s not just magical. It’s other, larger.” He was stumbling a bit over his words then, and he broke eye contact, his eyes wandering down the length of her neck and across the robe that had started to slip open. He was right though; in that moment, in any given moment, she felt powerful. It was a feeling as though she constantly had the upper hand. He kept talking, but she stopped listening for a moment, focusing instead on the sensation of magic in the room.
“Elizabeth,” he called her back to him. Her eyes came back into focus, the sensational magic still lingering on her. “I want you.”
She felt a little shocked by his directness. She began to fumble through her response, but he cut her off, saying with all the fervor of a man drunk on whiskey, “I’ve wanted you—all to myself—for ages now. I’ve been furious with you, with myself. Rebellious against the wishes of my parents. Hasty. If the Dark Lord could see into my mind, I’m sure He would have murdered me and allowed you to take over the task, because if you are meant to be His heir, if that’s His intention, then I have offended Him with impure thoughts.” His smirk came back, and for a moment she thought about the way those lips would taste.
But the moment past, and she shook her head. “Draco, I can’t.”
He looked a little sad but not surprised, and replied, “Don’t tell me you don’t feel something for me? When you kiss me, I know. I’ve known. Since the bonfire.”
“I won’t deny I’ve felt something for you,” she took up her glass again, and tried to poise herself. The next part would be difficult for him. “But it’s out of my hands.”
“Elizabeth, I’m serious. I know my reputation, but I can—I want—to be with you.”
“I don’t doubt you, but it’s out of my hands.” Her words were slow and measured. Silence hung around them, and she felt forced to add, “He plans to arrange a marriage for me. He plans not just to select me as His heir, but to act as a father might. He plans to take care of me.”
“You can’t be serious.“
“Perfectly so.” She said simply, draining her glass and rising from him. “Which means you should go.”
He stood too, heat rising up his neck and his eyes flashing with that wild look again, as if he was briefly back to that morning’s hunt. It was the look of a man whose arm is stretched out about to grasp the thing he’s wanted.
Instead of moving to go, he took her by the shoulders and brought her to him, lips crashing onto hers in a slippery, drunken kiss. He moved so fast she couldn’t push him away, and her gut wrenched with the realization that she did not want to. She had hoped to keep hating him, to keep her distance in their work and to mock Hera for suggesting indecent actions were occurring when they were alone together. Instead, she found her tongue moving against his like it had been crafted to do so.
The kiss may have only been a moment or it may have been a year, but eventually she was the one who snapped away, breathing hard and cursing under her exhalations. Her hand rushed through her hair and she noticed that her robe was open now, the warmth of his hand still lingering on her ribcage.
He turned away, his hands grasping the back of the chair that he’d been leaning against on the floor. It teetered on its back legs with the force of his grip.
“Why! Why does He get to decide! Everything—whether my family lives, whether my attempts are worth acknowledging, whether I get to have you! Ellie, tell me why He gets to decide when you kiss me like that.”
“I decide.” She stood tall, eyes blazing. His anger infuriated her. “I allow Him to decide. He will pick a man for me, and I will be loyal to that man because I allow it to be so. Because I’ve decided.” Draco’s whole demeanor was wild then, and she knew he wanted to object, but she continued before he could. “And what would you do, hmm, when you couldn’t have me? When he picked someone other than you. What would you do when you couldn’t have me?”
His wild eyes turned dumb, and she knew that he had never contemplated a reality in which he could not have her—a world in which he could not get everything that he wanted. Those dumb eyes followed her as she walked across the room and opened the door, holding it there for him.
“Get out, Malfoy.”
Author's Note: This is one of my favorite chapters thus far, and I'm so excited to share it with you all! Elizabeth, Elizabeth, Elizabeth...! Amirite?
The chapter is inspired by the Wild Hunt, which is a German folk myth. I encourage you all to read about it online (with Wikipedia being a great source, surprisingly). There is also a beautiful painting by Peter Nicolai Arbo that served as inspiration for the imagery of the men preparing to head out on the hunt. The myth seemed to work so wonderfully with my vision of Pureblood tradition, and I'm interested to see what you think of it!
Thank you to pink bunny and EmmyBacon for the reviews. I can't tell you how much I appreciate the feedback! It's so valuable to me, especially as I continue to write and develop these characters.
Oh, and the chapter image was created by me.
Chapter 26: Merry Land
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Evelyn looked as tired as she felt the next morning when her aunt came to the door, knocking loudly and calling to her to wake up. The door cracked open, and Minerva’s voice came in a gentler tone. “You’ll need to be ready in an hour. Hermione is already up.”
She threw off the covers, dressing quickly in the soft blue morning light. The sun was just coming up; it could have only been seven o’clock. Their passage through the international floo was scheduled for half-past ten. She was trying to do the math in her head, finally landing on their arrival time near six in the morning in Maryland. By the time she was settled with the Coupes, it would be like she was starting her day again. Her body felt heavy with exhaustion just at the thought of it, and she resented only getting a few hours of sleep that night. Even now, thoughts of Harry were lying at the edge of her mind.
She placed a few final things in her travel bag, which had been charmed to fit everything, and then took a few extra moments to perform a handful of glamor charms that made it look like she’d had more sleep than she had. Then, she took one more turn about the room and concluded she had everything, and closed the door softly behind her.
The sound of cutlery scratching against plates met her ears as she came into the kitchen, and she was surprised to find more people awake at that hour than she’d anticipated. Minerva and Demeter were seated at one end of the table, the bottle of Firewhiskey she knew Demeter had shared with Remus sitting next to her aunt’s water cup with only a shot or two left in the bottle. Her aunt didn’t look too worse for wear, and she heard her croak softly “hair of the dog” as she pushed the bottle towards Remus, who was sitting across for her and looking particularly hungover.
Hermione was a few seats down, talking with Ron and Harry. Her bag was slung over the back of her chair. She wore the sweater Mrs. Weasley had given her for Christmas, which had a large H knitted onto the front. Her hair was tied up, away from her face, and she glowed with excitement.
Evelyn noticed immediately that Ron looked less than thrilled. He stabbed at his bacon, and only seemed to keep an ear to Hermione begrudgingly. He didn’t even greet Evelyn as she took the seat next to Harry, across from Ron. Mrs. Weasley immediately placed a full plate in front of her with a bright “tuck in,” and Evelyn only barely managed to thank her before she moved back down the table to pour Ron’s father another cup of coffee.
“Morning,” she said, her tone a mixture of brightness and trepidation.
Hermione’s greeting met her brightness, and Harry’s her trepidation.
“I was just saying that we might go to see the Magical Congress if the weather isn’t too poor and we can get a side-along apparation,” Hermione said quickly, still smiling. “I’ve read the Woolworth Building is beautiful, and I’d love to see the monument to the Salem Witch trials.”
Evelyn nodded. “We might visit the embassy where my mother worked, too. It’s only a few blocks from the No-Maj Congress, which is worth a visit, too. And I’m sure Lacey’s mom has planned a few things for us.”
“That sounds interesting,” was all Harry said, smiling tightly.
She suddenly wished she had arrived at breakfast to find him alone so that they could talk openly. It was as if not kissing, letting that moment pass them by, had erected a barrier between them that stilted their conversation. His gaze was different now, and her voice felt teetering when she replied. She suddenly longed for the Room of Requirement, where she felt most herself—and where she thought perhaps he did, too. There were no barriers there.
“I think Hermione will enjoy it—and it’ll be nice to be back in my old stomping grounds with my friends, and to hear about all the things they’ve done since I’ve been gone.” She paused for a moment, and then added reflectively, “I’m sure so much has changed.”
“Has so much changed?” Harry asked, avoiding her eyes and instead focusing on a clump of scrambled egg that he pushed around his plate with his fork.
“Yes,” she said, happy that this answer caused him to look up, a glimmer of something in his eye. “At least I think so.”
“I can’t imagine it wouldn’t!” Hermione chimed in, breaking the moment up without knowing she had. “But I think it will probably feel natural to be back there, don’t you? It will probably be me that prevents you from settling right back in.”
Evelyn could hear the self-consciousness in Hermione’s voice and she smiled, shaking her head, “I think you’ll fit right in, Hermione. My friends will love you—and it’ll be nice to finally have someone around who doesn’t know Bobby well enough to be thwarted from putting him in his place by knowledge of his fragile ego.”
Ron was suddenly looking—glaring—at Evelyn. “You’ve got to be careful of those American guys, Hermione. I’ve heard they’re a bit high maintenance, and controlling, and a bit fat.”
Evelyn couldn’t help the look of shock that claimed her face, and Hermione looked a bit abashed on her behalf. “Where could you have possibly heard that Ron?”
“I know people.” He muttered, stuffing bacon into his mouth so that he didn’t have to elaborate. Harry was smiling into his tea, refusing to make eye contact with any of them.
“You about ready?” Aunt Demeter’s voice came down the table, snapping them out of their conversation. Evelyn had eaten quickly, and Hermione was pushing back her plate. It was time.
She rose quietly, and was about to take up her bag when she noticed Harry had already grabbed it for her and was pushing her chair back into the table. She wanted so badly to say something to him, but nothing that came to mind was right. Ron and Hermione were still bickering back and forth about his knowledge (or lack thereof) of American guys, but they faded into the background as she tried to focus on Harry and what could be said to express all of the things she’d thought about last night. The hallway wasn’t nearly long enough.
Demeter and Minerva were taking them to the international floo station, and were in the living room opening the grate. Only minutes left now. Hermione and Ron entered the room, where they stood next to Mr. and Mrs. Weasley, the latter hugging Hermione like she might have hugged Ginny.
Harry lingered by the doorway, Evelyn at his side.
“I guess you’ll be leaving then?”
“Only if you give up my bag.” She said, smiling as a surprised look washed over his face. He handed it to her with a blush. Feeling wordlessness coming up between them, she added quickly, “It’ll only be a few days—five, I think, then we’ll be back.”
“Fred and George are planning a New Years Eve party at their flat above the shop.”
“I’ll see you there then.”
“Yeah,” he trailed off, “On New Years Eve.”
“Not long at all.” She reached out, touching his hand briefly and locking eyes with him. She had read in so many books about times when eyes communicated everything that needed to be said, and she wondered if she was able to do that right then. If he knew she was saying, don’t change your mind—wait, just a few days.
“You have your tickets? And enough money for the week? And a stash of floo powder to let us know when you arrive to the Coupe’s?” Aunt Minnie asked, her tone sharp and her eyes never leaving Evelyn. This would be the first time she was away from her aunt since she had become her guardian, and the first time she took the international floo without her mother.
The station was just as she remembered it. The long room had entrances at the north, south, east, and west, with information desks that featured stuffy looking wizards lording over instructional pamphlets and maps. The east and west walls each featured three grand fireplaces, which were at least three times larger than a standard fire place, allowing multiple witches and wizards to floo simultaneously.
The station was crowded with holiday travelers, all anxiously awaiting their floo number to be called. Small batches were summoned at a time, all traveling to the same hub. Her eyes scanned the crowds, wondering briefly which of these witches and wizards might be going to Maryland just as they were.
She brought her eyes back to her Aunt Minnie, who was beginning to fret. “We have everything we need.”
“Not everything!” Demeter said cheekily, holding out a cellophane bag of assorted treats from Sugarplum’s Sweets Shop, “You’ll need sustenance.”
Evelyn beamed at her aunt, taking the bag and placing it carefully into the deep pocket of her traveling robe. “Thank you,” she said, suddenly feeling heavy with the weight of leaving them. She hugged Aunt Demeter tightly and then Aunt Minnie.
“Be safe, Evie.” Demeter said sweetly. Minerva said nothing, the thin line of her lips curving slightly on the ends in a worried way. Her eyes were so soft that she looked as if she might cry. Evelyn hugged them each again, and then led Hermione to the turnstiles. They showed their tickets to the floo guard, who inspected them carefully before using his wand to stamp them and allowing the girls to pass through. He told them which fireplace they would be departing from, the title of which had also appeared on their ticket after it had been stamped. Every few feet, Evelyn looked over her shoulder and made eye contact with her aunts until the pair was lost in the crowd.
It took awhile for their number to be called, and by then Hermione was a bit nervous. She examined the witches and wizards stuffed in next to them, her careful eyes attempting to discern whether or not these people were trustworthy. The woman closest to her glared back, and popped her gum with disdain.
Evelyn was happy that they managed to shuffle into the middle of the group, saying to Hermione, “The middle tends to be less turbulent.”
Hermione looked away from the woman next to her, and Evelyn could immediately see the surprise pass across Hermione’s face. The other girl had obviously not considered how it would feel to take the international floo. Without a reply, she felt Hermione’s hand move into hers as the floo guard that had showed them into the fireplace gave them the usual instructions.
Using the amplification charm, the guard said in a sweet but affected tone, “Please maintain an upright position at all times. Please keep your elbows close to your body. Ensure that your wand and all belongs are secure. Be mindful of other passengers. For those of you taking the international floo network for the first time, please note that the floo powder will be distributed from above and the flames will be distributed from below. At that time, I will state your destination. I will be casting the silencing charm shortly, and the guard that greets you will remove this charm. Thank you, and have a safe trip.”
She then cast the silencing charm, the floo powder dropped from above, and the flames met the powder exactly at the same time they heard the woman announce “The Baltimore International Floo Station, North America” in the same affected, articulate tone.
Evelyn loved the moment when the zooming fireplaces and hearths suddenly disappeared and the ocean was there, racing past. She could feel Hermione’s hand tighten around hers, and she was glad to know that she was there though she couldn’t see her. Though it only took a few minutes, traveling internationally through floo always felt unnervingly long and she was glad to feel her feet meet ash in the familiar brick fireplace in Baltimore. It took her eyes a moment to adjust, and she blinked a few times, looking at Hermione but not saying anything. The other girl’s lips moved, but when she realized there was no sound coming out she frowned.
“Welcome to the Baltimore International Floo Station, the largest floo station in the United States!” A new voice greeted them, just as sweet and articulate but with the blunter American accent that Evelyn hadn’t missed until that moment. The guard removed the silencing charm and then motioned for them all to exit the fireplace.
The Baltimore station was very different than the London station; it had tall glass windows along the walls and sparkling grey quartz tiles on the floors. The brick fireplaces were whitewashed, and looked clean and bright. Modern chairs stretched in rows, and witches and wizards leaned back in them waiting with more of an air of anxiety than their British counterparts had.
Hermione fell into step with Evelyn, who marched forward from the cluster of witches and wizards in their fireplace towards the exit with the certainty only a person who had traveled through this station multiple times in her life could possess. The Baltimore station had dedicated the northern side to arrivals, and she knew that the Coupe family would have to wait for them there, on the other side of customs.
Evelyn had already explained to Hermione that they would have to be cleared by customs before being allowed to depart, which she’d been pleasantly surprised to hear wasn’t entirely unfamiliar to her friend. Hermione had traveled abroad with her parents before, and the Muggle system was similar. Fortunately the wait was rather short, and they found themselves before a bored looking official in only a few moments. He took their tickets and, after passing his wand over them with an inquisitive eye, asked, “Reason for your visit?”
“Visiting friends for the Christmas holiday.” Evelyn said confidently.
“How long is your stay?”
“About five nights.” Evelyn said after a moment of counting.
“Six days.” Hermione added, ever factual.
The wizard looked a bit annoyed by their accuracy. “Will you be staying in Maryland, or departing from the state?”
“We’ll be staying here with our friends.”
“Do you have any magical objects to declare?”
“We’ve both got our wands, but nothing else—some treats from Diagon Alley, but those aren’t technically magical in and of themselves, I guess. Unless you count the chocolate frogs?”
“We do not count the chocolate frogs, ma’am. No brooms or the like?”
They shook their heads back and forth.
“Enjoy your stay in Baltimore, ladies.” He finally said, adding another stamp to their tickets with his wand and allowing them through the turnstiles.
The girls hurried through, exchanging excited glances as they found themselves on the other side. Evelyn wondered how the experience compared to Muggle travel, but she resigned herself to asking Hermione later that evening when they’d have a moment to relax. Now, the most important thing was to find the Coupes.
It didn’t take long.
Near the doors stood Miranda Coupe, her familiar blonde hair bobbed at her chin. Her head was covered by a knit hat, and she held a small handmade sign that read “Evie and Hermione” in her daughter’s familiar handwriting. She waved Evelyn over with delight, tossing aside the sign as soon as she was close enough to hug.
“Mrs. Coupe!” was all Evelyn could manage as happy tears threatened at the corners of her eyes.
“Oh, honey,” was all she could return. She knew Mrs. Coupe was most likely on the edge of tears as well, and the thought warmed her heart. Eventually, she pulled back from the warm embrace to study Evelyn. “You look older and wiser—and beautiful, of course.” Then she turned to Hermione, who she also hugged. When she pulled back, Hermione’s cheeks were red from the unexpected gesture. She studied Hermione as well, the smile on her face never wavering. “You must be Hermione, Evie’s new friend. We’ve all been looking forward to meeting you.”
Hermione’s cheeks turned redder, if possible.
“I left everyone in bed at the house, despite Lacey’s protests. David was making waffles when I left, so I hope you came hungry.”
Hermione and Evelyn walked on either side of Mrs. Coupe as she led them from the airport, through a glass tunnel that overlooked the busy airport drives, and towards a set of elevators that eventually delivered them to the parking deck. Evelyn was still feeling tired from that morning, and it was difficult to keep up with Mrs. Coupe’s energetic pace. Though her internal clock was chiming midday, it was dark in Maryland and she longed to lie down—after waffles, of course.
For the second time that day, Evelyn entered a room to the sound of cutlery scraping against plates. Though she’d been perfectly happy with her reception at Grimmauld Place, the reception in Lacey’s kitchen was much louder and brighter.
The force with which Lacey threw herself at Evelyn almost knocked the air out of her. The feeling of her friend’s arms around her were so familiar, and the overwhelming sensation of home that came with that feeling brought tears to her eyes. May would have been right behind Lacey if Bobby hadn’t knocked her to the side, taking ahold of Evelyn as soon as Lacey let her go and holding her to him so tightly that her feet left the ground. All of her friends were talking simultaneously, mixing I missed you’s and you’re finally here’s and Merry Christmas’s. It was overwhelming, but also thrilling. It felt almost like a part of her had been missing until that moment, and that piece came hurtling back to her, clicking into place.
After being squeezed again and again, Evelyn stepped back and pushed her hair behind her ears. She was flushed with warmth, and paused for a moment before turning her eyes to Hermione, who had been standing quietly off to the side, observing in that hawkish way that she did when no one was watching.
“Everyone, this is Hermione—my best British friend,” Evelyn smiled at the cadence, gesturing towards Hermione, “Hermione, this is Lacey, Bobby, May, Devon, and Theo.” She pointed at each as she went down the line, and Hermione nodded along, playing it cool as if she hadn’t heard stories of these people before. Evelyn could see Hermione’s brain working behind her warm brown eyes, pairing names with faces. She paused the longest over Theo.
“We’re so happy you came with Evie,” May said warmly. “Lacey and I have been wondering how she’s getting along, and who’s been taking care of her.”
Lacey rolled her eyes a bit, “We know she’s mostly trouble.”
Bobby added, “She’s mostly worth it though.”
“If that’s the case, then I think she’s been holding back on us—she’s been quite reserved! The least of my concerns, truly.” Hermione’s British lilt was a strong contrast to the American accent, and all of Evie’s friends’ faces immediately lit up with the same expression of interest that every American seemed to make whenever a British person spoke.
“They make it sound like I was a closet arsonist or something,” Evelyn sighed dramatically, motioning towards a chair at the table where the lot had been eating when they entered. Hermione took it, and she sat down next to her, the rest returning to their plates. “I wasn’t bad!”
“The teachers use to call you ‘rebel without a cause,’” Theo said pointedly.
“I thought that was you.” She returned.
“Maybe they used the plural,” he conceded, pushing his hair way from his eyes. Evelyn allowed her eyes to linger over him, reveling for a moment in how familiar he was. She knew every inch of him, and there was something thrilling about having that knowledge of another person.
She turned her eyes to Bobby before Theo could catch her staring, as Bobby had started in to a story about her and soon the stories were rolling, Hermione laughing along and inserting little snippets of things that had happened over the last term that either confirmed or contrasted with the person Evelyn had been in Maryland.
She had spent a lot of time thinking about that person, and whether she was different now than she had been just a year ago. Of course, she was. She recognized it immediately; even before the amnesia charm was cast and since the remembering. She was more cautious, more focused on her schoolwork, and more thoughtful—a result of the attacks on her family and of the preparation for what she knew was ahead. She could feel pieces of her old self come back to her, during parties after Quidditch games or by the fire in Grimmauld Place, where she knew she was safe and she could be more relaxed. Even here in the Coupe’s kitchen, she could feel that person coming back to her little by little. It would never be the same, she reckoned, she’d never be that young again, but she wanted to be able to have fun. She wanted to enjoy this time—this vacation.
She paused in her thoughts, again looking over at Theo. This time, they briefly made eye contact as the conversation turned towards school more generally and what was new at the Academy. It was an effort to pull her gaze away from him so that she could look at Hermione and the others and encourage the conversation to continue.
She realized then that what she hadn’t spent much time considering, however, was how life in Maryland might have moved on without her. Perhaps selfishly or perhaps naturally, her focus—particularly since the remembering—had been on her own life. Though she’d gotten better about writing Lacey, who was her primary correspondent (due more to Lacey’s organizational skills and efficiency than to her other friends’ lack of interest in writing), she hadn’t necessarily contemplated the fact that her friends did not exist in a vacuum. They had continued to live their lives, just as they should be expected to. It wasn’t the fact in and of itself that hurt her. It was the reality of it. Part of their world was alien to her just as part of her world was to them. While she ate the waffles that Mrs. Coupe placed in front of her, she tried to accept the fact that she didn’t necessarily care that the new junior who had transferred to the Academy had beaten Bobby in their first duel. She realized that like Hermione, who looked interested yet unaffected, that this person—this Jonathon Rollins, formerly of Iowa—would be superfluous to her life. She nodded along diligently, smiling at all the right moments but feeling a small stone of jealousy in the bottom of her stomach. It was silly, she knew, and it would pass, but it was there nonetheless.
Eventually, the conversation turned to Hogwarts, and they had several questions for Hermione, all of which she handled gracefully as she admitted that yes, she knew the Boy Who Lived, and yes, she was that friend, and no, she hadn’t cheated on Viktor Krum with Harry.
Evelyn and Hermione had fought off the fatigue of their travels and the time difference as long as they could, but eventually admitted defeat and took their bags up to the spare room where Lacey showed them the large bed they’d share for the next few days.
Lacey showed Hermione where the bathroom was, and while she disappeared for a bit to wash up, Lacey took a seat next to Evelyn, who had allowed her torso to fall back on the bed with her feet dangling just above the carpet.
“She seems really nice,” Lacey said quietly, looking down at Evelyn and smiling.
“She is—they all are actually. It’s been a long semester though.”
“I know, it’s been the same for me.” Lacey paused, biting her lip a bit, “It’s just not the same without you here, you know.”
Evelyn reached for her friend’s hand and gave it a brief squeeze, nodding, “Not the same at all.”
“Pinky promise,” Evelyn said, taking Lacey’s little finger in hers and shaking her hand a bit just as they had always done in their middle school years. Her friend smiled, looking more reassured.
There was a brief pause as Hermione returned, and Lacey stood to allow the other girl onto the bed. Leaning against the dresser, she said, “I wanted to make sure I told you before I let you sleep that we were thinking we might take you both out for a night on the town—like the old days. Tomorrow night, if you’re feeling rested enough? Or Saturday if you prefer?”
“I think tomorrow night should be fine,” Evelyn said, looking at Hermione, who nodded along. “That way we could spend Saturday in the city. Hermione would like to be a tourist for the day.”
“Perfect! Then we could have a girls’ day on Sunday—May and I discussed that too. Maybe manicures or something like that at the spa? And then mom’s planned a goodbye dinner on Monday.”
Evelyn nodded, eager for sleep and excited with thoughts of what was ahead. “I’ll try to give Hermione as much a warning as possible. I assume Bobby dances just the same as he use to?”
“If possible, he’s even more eradicate.”
Hermione looked between them, tired but intrigued. She was already under the covers, and Lacey moved towards the door, saying as she departed, “Don’t worry, Evelyn will tell you everything you need to know.”
Evelyn woke to a dark room, feeling slightly disoriented but rested. She could tell that it was an odd hour, however, and rolled on to her side, straining her eyes in the dark for a clock or some marker of time.
“It’s only four or so,” Hermione’s whisper came to her before Evelyn’s eyes had adjusted enough to see the outline of her friend’s face.
“Only four, but that would be—“
“Nine back home.”
Evelyn was quiet for a moment, adjusting the covers to keep the warmth and settling back into a comfortable position on her back. Hermione was laying the same way, and she imagined that they both were tracing the pattern on the ceiling, wondering if sleep was gone for good or just a little ways away. She didn’t feel tired.
“How long have you been awake?”
“Not long,” Hermione admitted, “I thought about reading for a bit, but didn’t want to get out from under the covers to find my book or my wand. So I’ve just been thinking. It’s been quiet—and nice.”
“I think dancing will be nice, too,” Evelyn reasoned, “I use to demand dancing when I lived here. I talked a lot about how it helped my soul, you know, like a ritual or something. Lacey used to joke that I just liked to have an excuse for doing shots and watching the sunrise.”
“That doesn’t sound like you at all.”
“The shots or the sunrise—or both?”
“The dancing, actually,” Hermoine said quietly, and Evelyn wondered if her friend felt that these were dark waters. She didn’t feel that way, but after their brief falling out over Hermione’s actions with her aunts, she wondered if her friend felt hesitant about these sorts of topics. She thought about asking, but Hermione continued. “I’m looking forward to it, though. It’ll be good to see you dance after this last semester. I think you’ll need it. And it’ll be good for me to dance too. Good for our souls, like you said.”
Evelyn smiled, though she knew Hermione couldn’t see it. Then, after the silence had stretched between them long enough, she asked, “What do you think is happening at home?”
“Ron is probably eating.” Hermione’s response was so blunt that Evelyn couldn’t help but laugh.
“That wouldn’t surprise me,” she mustered after her laughter had subsided.
“Do you think they miss us?” Hermione asked, her voice barely above a whisper. She never turned to look at Evelyn, and Evelyn never turned to look at her. She felt, perhaps, it would have been harder to answer the question if she had.
“I think they must,” she said after awhile, her words slow but certain. “If nothing else, they’ll be bored without us, but I like to think it’s more than that.”
“I’d like to think that, too.”
This time, Evelyn didn’t disturb the silence as it returned and eventually she could hear the change in Hermione’s breathing as she drifted back to sleep. It took Evelyn longer to fall back asleep. She allowed her mind to return to England and to Harry—and to the should-have-been kisses that never were. She felt like something had been denied her, some missed opportunity that she hadn’t realized she’d wanted until she couldn’t have it. The realization felt slightly childish, but she couldn’t help herself.
She missed him, she realized just before allowing herself to drift back to sleep, and she liked him more than she wanted anyone to know.
Author's Note: I'm interested to hear what you all think of this chapter. This journey to America was a very important part of this series, especially for Evelyn and Hermione, when the story was originally written, and while I have wanted to make many revisions when I decided to start Tempting Fate again, I felt that this journey in particular could stay. I'm not sure I'm entirely satisfied with it because it feels a little bit like a departure from where we've been, but at the same time I think it provides an important opportunity for introspection for Evelyn. Plus... It allows the next chapter, which is entirely new to the plotand which I'm really excited to post!
Also, I wanted to share that I was recently awared "Trusted Author" status. I'm delighted and honored to have it! It brought the biggest smile to my face when I got the note from the admins. I promise more posts... As soon as the crazy dies down over here. (It's just that time of year, I suppose.)
As always, the chapter image is mine. Click to get a closer look at Evelyn's friends in America.
xx, Fading Antigone
Chapter 27: Vada
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Evelyn tugged at the dress she was wearing, turning left and right in the mirror to catch different angles of herself. The dress was Lacey’s, and wasn’t exactly her style.
If she was being honest, she’d admit that her style tended more towards minimalist grunge with a flair of what her mother had once called “feminine tomboy,” with her most comfortable outfits consisting of jeans, tees, blazers or leather jackets or simple, high-cut dresses. She took much of her inspiration from Winona Ryder, who starred in many of her favorite Muggle films.
For a moment, her mind drifted to scenes from Reality Bites, which Lacey and she had gone to see only two years ago—had it really only been two years ago? It felt a world away.
She was pulled from her brief reverie when Hermione entered the bedroom, wearing a dress from Evelyn’s suitcase. It was, indeed, one of those simple, high-cut dresses in black. It came to just above Hermione’s knee, and she had paired it with hose and flat black mules.
“That fits you great!”
“I feel a bit like one of those people from that show that was on earlier—what was it? Ninety, twenty, something?”
“You mean 90210?” Evelyn laughed a bit at the absurdity of her incredibly brilliant friend struggling to understand American pop culture. That seemed to be the starkest contrast between Britain and America, to Evelyn at least. The wizarding world in the States kept a close watch on the No-Maj world—its politics, its popular culture. All of the magical families she knew in Maryland had television sets, which were tuned to receive magical channels as well as No-Maj channels. Lacey had been obsessed with Beverly Hills, 90210 as long as Evelyn could remember. She had labored over characters’ backgrounds that afternoon in an attempt to help Hermione understand the drama.
Hermione moved in next to Evelyn in the mirror and began to adjust her hair, while Evelyn returned to tugging the sides of her dress. It was also a black dress, and was designed to look like a slip. It was clear that the dress must fit Lacey like a glove, as it was a little wide on Evelyn (who was taller and leaner than Lacey—and a little more flat-chested, she noticed). However, the extra width wasn’t unflattering, and the fabric lay lovely. In fact, the fabric, the length, and the general shape were all things that Evelyn liked; it was the cut of the bust that was making her feel particularly self-conscious. The spaghetti straps barely held up the sweetheart-necked dress, which was more revealing than anything she owned.
Lacey chose that moment to return, wearing a similar dress to the one she’d insisted Evelyn wear, but tighter and cut more narrowly at the hips. It was cherry red, and she had paired it with matching heels.
“How long have you been fidgeting like that?” Lacey cut right to it.
“Since I came back to the room ten minutes ago.” Hermione interrupted, eyeing Evelyn’s reflected eyes. She had put up her hair and was working on a bit of make-up.
“Well, stop it. You look incredible.” She reached forward, smacking Evelyn’s hands away from her sides. “You’ll make Theo drop dead, if it’s any encouragement.”
Evelyn blushed a bit, chuckling, “I suppose it is.” She resigned herself to the dress, knowing the only other option she had was to force Hermione to switch with her, and there was no way that was going to happen. Instead, she took a seat on the bed and tugged on her low boots and form-fitting leather jacket. Lacey wrinkled her nose at the choice of accessories, but knew better than to say anything.
It seemed to have only been a few minutes when the doorbell rang, and the three girls heard Lacey’s mother usher in the others. They were practically finished, and sped through the last few steps before collecting their purses and heading downstairs.
Devon, Theo, and Bobby were dressed in similar outfits, each wearing a variation of a button-down shirt and jeans. Theo’s button-down shirt was tailored a little more closely to his body, and as Evelyn allowed her eyes to slide over him, she wondered if he bought his shirts like that or if he had to cast a spell on them so that they would fit him that well. Devon was a bit plainer, standing behind May while she talked to Hermione. His sleeves were rolled up, and the navy shirt was a few shades darker than his jeans. Bobby, on the other hand, was wearing his button-down shirt open with a white shirt underneath.
May, who immediately received compliments from all of the girls and who graciously returned them, was wearing a short denim skirt and white blouse that looked innocent in comparison to the other girls’ outfits. (Lacey had earlier confided that May was a bit of a closet Britney Spears fan, and she hoped they would play her new song at the dance club they were going to because she knew May would probably lose it.)
“You all look so grown up,” Miranda Coupe cooed, immediately leaving the living room to fetch the family camera while Lacey’s father tried not to look at the length of the girls’ skirts. When she returned, she waved them together and took several photos, which immediately spit out of the camera in quick succession. It was a Polaroid that had been converted to quickly produce magical photos. The girls each took one, shaking them gently and watching at their figures came into focus.
Hermione looked at Evelyn with a furtive, devilish look before going to Mrs. Coupe and saying something outside of earshot. It wasn’t until Mrs. Coupe handed over a piece of parchment, an envelope, and a pen before announcing she would fetch the family owl that Evelyn realized what her friend had meant by her look.
Before she could intervene, Hermione had jotted out a quick note and attached the envelope to the owl. As the owl took flight, Evelyn realized she had written the names “Ronald Weasley” and “Harry Potter” in large, looping letters on the envelope. She chuckled softly to herself as her friend returned to her side, and picked up her conversation with May as if nothing had happened.
Though quite realistic, Mrs. Coupe didn’t spare them the litany of reminders before they departed by Floo: Don’t drink too much. Stay in the wizarding part of town if you can. Stay together. Never go to the bathroom alone. Be aware of your surroundings. Be smart. Be safe. When Lacey had assured her mother that they were quite smart and intended on being quite safe and she had let her father to kiss her on the forehead, they were allowed to take the Floo two at a time.
Their destination was a small section of the Adams Morgan neighborhood in Washington, DC known as Kalorama, which was only about thirty miles from Lacey’s home in Maryland. Kalorama was a wizarding neighborhood that took its name from Kalorama Road, where a few thousand witches and wizards had tucked away their townhomes using a series of charms and spells that kept the No-Maj generally unaware of their magical neighbors. The street was also home to a handful of bars, and allowed access to the rest of the Adams Morgan neighborhood, which had grown incredibly trendy in recent years. Young witches and wizards liked to live in the neighborhood, and commute out of the city to their jobs in larger wizarding communities in Maryland or Virginia, or were employed by the embassies in the No-Maj capital.
When they stepped out of the fireplace in the basement of the Rendezvous Lounge, an older wizard asked for identification and reviewed each of their cards in turn. Bobby had magicked them to show that they were each of age, and the older wizard seemed disinterested enough to believe them. He stamped their hands and warned them that No-Maj were around that night, and to be mindful of their magic. “If you prefer a more homogenous watering hole, you can take a left out of the lounge and head down Kalorama,” he advised.
Bobby nodded, patting him on the back and leading the group up the stairs to the narrow bar above where he immediately headed for the bartender while Lacey beckoned the rest of the group to a table she’d spotted. The bar was pleasantly crowded, with most of the tables or stools at the bar occupied. Everyone looked older than them, and Evelyn could see Hermione tugging at her dress in an attempt to lengthen it.
“I think this is okay for a drink or two, but then we should move on. Maybe to Club Heaven and Hell or Bourbon?” Lacey said, leaning close to them with her elbows on the table. Evelyn nodded, remembering each of those establishments—and this one too. She let her eyes crawl over the walls and the chairs and the people, smiling despite herself. Nothing much had changed.
“I’m sure Bobby will want to go to the Picture Frame Factory.” Theo said. He was sitting next to Evelyn, and his shoulder leaned against hers. The table was probably better suited for six, but it had been their only option.
Within a few minutes, Bobby arrived with a tray of shots, glinting marigold in the dim light. A bowl of limes was on the tray as well as a saltshaker. Tequila, Evelyn knew, grinning.
“Got to get my girl’s favorite.” He said as he set the tray down. His smile was wolfish and boyish at the same time.
“What is it?” Hermione wrinkled her nose a bit as Bobby set one in front of her.
“Tequila,” Evelyn answered readily, “A classic.”
“In Evelyn’s opinion at least. Unfortunately, we can’t get Quintana here, which is our top shelf.” Theo explained, sending a look Evelyn’s way that said clearly I know everything you’ve ever done when you’ve had too much tequila. She blushed, and was immediately thankful for the low lighting.
She turned her attention to the shots, and taking the salt shaker as it was handed round, licked the back of her hand and shook a bit onto it. Hermione watched her intently and reenacted the process. When everyone had their salt and lime ready, Bobby held up his shot glass, saying, “To Evelyn, our prodigal friend. May England know how lucky she is to have you, and may America see you enough to not forget.”
She smiled broadly, clinking her glass against his and the others before licking the salt from her hand and throwing back the shot. The lime followed, along with a contented sigh—it was still her favorite.
“Merlin!” Hermione shouted as soon as she’d swallowed. “That’s you’re favorite?!”
“I know, right?” May nodded, her face still twisted a bit as the flavor lingered in the back of her throat. Her eyes looked a little wet.
Lacey, on the other hand, reached across the table and took Evelyn’s hands into hers. “I’m so glad you’re back.” She declared, a wicked smile on her face. Her lipstick shone in the light, stark against her white teeth.
“Another, or onward?” Bobby asked, moving the empty glasses onto the tray.
“I vote onward. I want to dance.” Lacey said, and May nodded along. Devon had moved behind her to wrap his arms around her in a casual embrace.
“What about the Picture Frame Factory?”
Theo groaned, rolling his eyes a bit. “I knew that’s where you’d want to go.”
“Why do you resist it? You know it’s the best option.”
“Bourbon is way better.”
“And way less magical.” Bobby emphasized the word, looking around a bit to make sure they didn’t look too suspicious.
“We don’t need it!” Theo declared, “At least not right away—let’s do Bourbon. Or Lace was thinking Heaven and Hell? That club down the way. We can end at the Factory. It makes sense, especially when you think we’ll be able to, erm, catch a ride home from there.”
Bobby looked doubtful. Theo turned to Evelyn, “What do you think? It makes sense, right? You guys can dance at the club, right?” He had moved his hand to her shoulder, and the touch felt so casual that it actually confused her. Were they the kinds of friends that touched like this? She tried to remember, but the memory seemed beyond her, as if it was apart of the collection of memories that hadn’t returned to her yet.
“I think Theo’s probably got some sound logic at work here.” She conceded, looking at Bobby, “And you know how much I hate to agree with him.”
Bobby nodded, smiling then, and looking briefly in Hermione’s direction. “And you’re okay with dancing?”
“I’m a pretty decent dancer.” She shrugged.
“Alright then! Let’s go.”
Those of them that were still sitting clambered out of their seats, and they walked out in a small group, eventually moving to sets of two with Bobby leading the way as the exception, followed by May and Devon, Lacey and Theo, and Evelyn and Hermione. The air was cold, and they could see their breath as they started in on little conversations.
Evelyn pointed out a few important places as they walked by to give Hermione a better sense of the landscape. As they crossed the street, she gestured to an ordinary-looking framing studio. “That’s the Picture Frame Factory they keep talking about. It’s Bobby’s favorite bar in this part of town.”
“You mean that place with the actual frames in it?” Hermione looked skeptical, as if perhaps Evelyn hadn’t pointed directly at the store as they passed.
“Yes, that’s the first floor. The basement is a bar for wizards only. You have to be able to get past the necessary charms to get in. Sometimes they have music in the evenings, and sometimes they have poets or writers reading. It’s a really mixed bag. It use to be a disco when it first opened in the seventies.”
Hermione nodded, her arm laced through Evelyn’s as they kept the quick pace of the group, making their way down the block and into Club Heaven and Hell. The man at the door seemed skeptical of their ID cards, but stamped their hands regardless after Lacey batted her eyes a few times and May whispered that she was getting cold.
The club was more crowded than the Rendezvous Lounge had been, and Evelyn was happy to see that many of the customers were closer to them in age. They made their way to the bar first, where Evelyn joined Bobby and Lacey in another round of shots while the girls ordered mixed drinks and Devon and Theo ordered whiskeys on the rocks. They drifted towards the lower level, known fondly as hell, where the tempo of the music was a little quicker. The DJ was playing mostly R&B, which was largely unfamiliar to Evelyn. It wasn’t necessarily her favorite style of music, but she liked how easy it was to dance to. The group settled into a portion of the dance floor away from the DJ, where they could dance but still hear one another.
“Different than I expected!” Hermione said loudly into Evelyn’s ear as she began to shimmy back and forth a bit, casting glances around at the people dancing nearby. Evelyn nodded, bobbing to the music. She took Hermione’s hands in hers and spun her, trying to loosen them both up. She didn’t feel quite drunk enough.
As if reading her mind, Bobby returned with four shots. He smiled broadly as he handed one shot to Evelyn and one to Lacey before taking two himself. He was moving quickly through his drinks, and his round cheeks were already flushed. Evelyn could tell Lacey was feeling her drinks as well. She had begun to make eyes at the guy who was dancing behind her and who was making eyes back at her, both of them looking for an excuse to talk to one another. Within minutes, they were dancing, their bodies moving fluidly against one another to the rhythm.
Evelyn focused on the beat, feeling warm in the crowd. She could feel eyes on her all around, but wasn’t sure exactly who was looking at her. She danced close to Hermione, whispering observations back and forth and laughing together. The longer they stayed, the more relaxed she felt, as if slowly her old self was coming back to her.
More shots were bought and passed around, even Hermione taking another one, and before long Evelyn felt that it was just the beat, her body, and her friends. She wiggled and curved her hips, smiling treacherously at men who moved too close to her, always moving away from their outstretched hands and shaking her head sweetly, mouthing no, I’d prefer to dance with my friends. She sang when she knew the words, becoming more dramatic with her movements. At one point, Bobby took up her arms and briefly waltzed with her before they both fell apart laughing. He did the same with Hermione, but Evelyn noticed that he held on to her friend longer than he had held on to her. She smiled, looking about for someone to fill the void left by Hermione, who allowed Bobby to spin her as she laughed and moved side to side.
Theo stepped into her place, holding a fresh whiskey and leaning towards her ear to say, “Looks like your friend has a new friend.” His eyes held hers, glimmering in that playful way they did when he was telling her something that was just for her. She always loved when he looked at her like that.
Nodding, she replied, “Worlds colliding!”
When he smiled at her and the lights of the club that flashed red and yellow around them reflected on his face, she could feel her mind pulling forth all the previous times in which that smile had been directed to her. She could remember a time when she thought that he had a smile designed just for her, as if the way his dimples settled in and his eyes shown were different when they shone on someone else. Even after these months apart, he still looked at her the way he always had—as if his soul recognized her soul. His dark eyes were fixed on hers and she couldn’t pull herself away. She’d been trying to avoid moments like this because she knew this was how it went. Every time. He could pull her back in with a brief touch or a challenging remark. All they ever needed was the tiniest spark, and they set fire.
She felt tequila propelling her forward, making her feel more like her old self—bold in her self-awareness and her feeling. She moved a little closer to him, watching out of the corner of her eye as May leaned in to Devon to say something in his ear and he looked over at them, a brief smile fluttering across his face before he replied to his girlfriend. She was feeling too drunk to care about falling into this stereotype. She felt impulsive and safe here. She reached out and briefly touched Theo’s face, rubbing the scruff on his jawline against her hand. His smile widened, and she moved her hand upwards so that the apple of his cheek sat in her palm and she moved her body closer still, allowing her hips to take up his rhythm as they danced closer to one another.
Wordlessly, he offered his drink to her, and she took a long drag from the red straw swirling in the cup. She loved whiskey almost as much as tequila, and the taste reminded her immediately of the nights they’d spent in clubs or bars just like this one, where they’d chased tequila with whiskey until they were laughing so hard and kissing so hard, they were short of breath and lightheaded. Soon, she knew, they’d be forced to chase their drinks with coffee and May would scold them for not staying hydrated and Devon would say Let them be and Theo would lean forward, whispering a private joke into her ear: We’re so together when we’re together.
She felt his nose brush against her cheek as she sipped again. “I missed this,” he admitted, a few other words lost in her hair and the sound of the music. The beard he was sporting now tickled her ear, and she giggled, nodding, “I did, too. Everything is different now.”
He nodded, smiling still and she wondered if he had been able to hear her. He must have, as he replied, “Tonight, it’s not. We’ve got tonight.”
His hands moved onto her hips, familiar with the landscape, and she let it happen—liking how light she felt, and reveling in the novelty of the feeling, which she recognized had once upon a time not been novel, but instead had been her constant existence.
It was only when the DJ transitioned to a new song, and a few beats were missed, that Evelyn seemed to come back to herself. It was a strange thing that happened, a brief moment where the person that she was now in Britain collided with the person she had been in America. It was in these moments, too, that thoughts of Harry would come into her mind. She wondered what he was doing, and if he was thinking of her. What had he thought of the photo Hermione had sent, and would he want to dance with her like this? Would he hate Theo for the possessive way he held her hips? Would his glasses fog up in a club like this?
She looked down at her toes, allowing herself a moment to giggle at the thought of Harry here, glasses foggy and hands knotted loosely in the small of her back, holding her close but not in a possessive way—it didn’t seem his style. His smooth jaw resting against her temple as they rocked back and forth, rarely speaking. It wouldn’t have felt necessary.
She could imagine him there so clearly that she almost felt that it, too, was a memory resurfacing. Briefly, she wished it were. Memories were still coming back to her each night in the form of dreams, and she knew her body was expecting a few more this evening—typically she was in bed by this time, and her body had gotten used to the cycle. Often, before bed, she could feel a deep sense of foreshadowing in her gut, like her body was preparing for the trauma of remembering. She wondered briefly what the memories would be tonight, and whether they would be happy or sad.
The music transitioned again, and she came back to the moment, recognizing the song as Theo brought her closer to him with his hand resting on her lower back. The cologne he was wearing filled her nose, and she felt a little light-headed. He was looking at her with those intense eyes, wrinkled slightly at the corners as if he had been alive longer than seventeen years. She looked away, then back, and away again, always smiling and feeling coy—unable to admit to him that she was thinking of another boy, quite different than him.
“Do you remember that time I snuck you out of your house, and we were at the park? Down the street?” His breath was hot on her neck, and she suddenly realized how hot she was. She hadn’t thought much about it. She could feel her brain working, but she shook her head, unable to bring the memory forth or the words. Suddenly, everyone felt closer to her than she had thought. Unfamiliar faces looked ghoulish in the light, and she could feel her heart rate increasing, caused either by the beat in her chest or the music—it wasn’t clear. She was drunker than she had thought, she realized, feeling unsteady on her feet.
“Don’t you remember?” He paused, leaning closer, “I couldn’t help myself.”
The otherwise innocuous phrase felt like physical impact, as if Theo had struck her across the face. The room spun a little, and she felt herself totter backwards. She knew she would have fallen if his arms hadn’t tensed around her in response. His drink sloshed out of the plastic cup he was holding, and she could feel the lukewarm whiskey run down her back and onto her legs. Theo looked suddenly more aware, and less intoxicated.
His mouth moved, but she couldn’t hear him—there was only silence now—and the edge of her vision was shadowy. The darkness crept further into her frame of view, until she couldn’t see anything clearly, and then there was nothing.
Evelyn was sitting in the chair that had last held Sirius Black. Time seemed to move differently here and now. It was unclear to her how long the group had been gone. She stared into the fire, but didn’t really watch it. She wondered briefly where Elizabeth was, but didn’t really want to know. Everything around her felt quiet, though she was certain she wasn’t the only one in Grimmauld Place just then.
Her suspicions were confirmed when a great clatter erupted from the kitchen, and Molly Weasley exclaimed. Evelyn tried to ignore the sudden ruckus, but it gained in its noise and the commotion turned into pandemonium. A small group of the witches and wizards she’d seen leave were suddenly returned, forced into the room and placed on couches or quickly conjured cots. She must have been so still that for some time she went unnoticed.
“It was only an Impediment Jinx, Molly,” A man was saying gruffly, swatting away the woman, “The landing hurt more than anything.”
Molly looked suspicious, but didn’t say anything, conjuring up some ice instead. “Lie there then while I tend to the others.”
“Tonks was hit with the same, but she’s gotten it worse. She’s been knocked unconscious, and I think we may have to take her to St. Mungo’s.” A tall man who Evelyn had heard called Kingsley earlier that day was explaining as he stood beside a cot, where he had placed a slight woman with vivid purple hair that matched the bruise forming on her cheek.
Molly nodded, looking attentively at the woman for a moment before turning to look at Kingsley with pursed lips, “And you?”
“Bellatrix hit me with a curse—I’m not sure what it was, but it was painful. I felt a little unsteady on my feet, but I think I’ll be okay.”
“I’ll fix you something,” Molly said, looking validated with action. “And the others? Where’s Dumbledore? Or Remus? Sirius?”
Evelyn noticed immediately the way darkness fell over the eyes of Kingsley and the other man, and she was sure Molly noticed it too, particularly as silence spread between them. For a second or two, only the crackling fire was heard.
Kingsley was the first to speak. “Albus stayed behind with the children—they’ll be taken back to the school to be treated by Poppy. Ginny sprained her ankle, so you’ll probably want to head to Hogwarts to check on her as soon as Arthur can be ready. The Ministry arrived, and were arresting many of the Death Eaters that had been incapacitated—Remus was going to stay there, and sweep the department with them to ensure it’s done right. We—we can’t be too careful.”
Evelyn was surprised by the slight stutter, as Kingsley didn’t hold himself like a man who was unsure of his words. It was clear that he wasn’t sure how to proceed though, and the other man inserted instead, “And Black was killed.”
There were familiar voices, but she couldn’t place the sounds. It was dark and her vision was blurry.
Someone said, “We’ve got to get her out of here. She could be sick.”
And someone else said, “No. It’s not like that. This has happened before—didn’t she tell you?”
She was moving, but it wasn’t her legs or her arms. Her body felt heavy, and she was trying to focus but she couldn’t. All of her joints felt stiff, and her head throbbed. This was familiar pain, she knew, this was remembering.
Later that evening, Molly convinced Kingsley and the other man who had been identified as Moody to take the woman, who had also been identified as Tonks, to St. Mungo’s. She felt the healers there would want to check out all of their injuries, but she was most concerned with Tonks, who had woken only for a few minutes to sputter some nonsense about a watch before drifting back into fitful unconsciousness. They were worried she may have a concussion, but wanted to ensure the spell that had hit her wasn’t causing any latent damage.
After they left, the house was quiet again, and Molly tried to occupy her hands while she waited for Albus or Remus or another member of the Order to arrive so that she could talk with them. She cast sidelong looks at Evelyn, who had remained quiet all through the various conversations that had taken place in that room that afternoon. Evelyn knew that Molly would eventually have to leave as well to check on her daughter. Her husband had come and gone already, and Molly had told him she’d be along—as soon as someone arrived to be with Evelyn.
She resented this treatment, as if she needed a babysitter. She resented Molly’s watchful eye, which felt simultaneously mothering and pitying. She wasn’t surprised that Elizabeth kept to her room; it was probably easier that way.
Footsteps in the hall a few moments later brought Remus Lupin and Albus Dumbledore to the sitting room. Both had a tired look around their eyes, and sadness hung off of Remus like a cloak. He had carried that around with him since Evelyn’s arrival, each day looking heavier. She wanted to reach out to him, the one familiar face in the chaos that had come since Evelyn’s aunts had left, but she didn’t move—she was stopped by the change in his eyes when he looked at her.
“Molly, you can go.” Albus said softly and without much pretext. It was clear she had been about to say something else, but instead she conceded and left the room.
“Evelyn,” Remus said soft, clearing his throat. “Could you please go get Elizabeth? Your aunts are on their way. We have something to tell you.”
When Evelyn returned with her sister a few moments later, the room had taken an even more somber tone. Both of her aunts had joined the men, and Evelyn was shocked to see her Aunt Minnie looking pale and resting on a walking stick.
“Has something happened?” She said softly, eying her aunt. She had spoken so little these past days that her voice sounded foreign to her.
“Nothing to worry about, dear,” Her aunt said softly, but unconvincingly. Demeter eyed her sister, and it was clear that she disagreed with her decision to withhold whatever had happened, but she said nothing. “We have more important matters to discuss.”
Elizabeth looked confused, and Evelyn felt that must have been the same expression she was wearing. Albus Dumbledore spoke next, saying, “Please take a seat” and gesturing to the couch, where they were joined by their aunts. Demeter placed an arm around Evelyn, and she wondered briefly if they were being braced for some kind of impact.
“When I was searching the Department of Mysteries with Ministry officials earlier, I was allowed to enter the Hall of Prophecy. Most of the prophecies were destroyed during the battle,” Remus paused, looking closely at the four women seated in front of him as if to see if any of them would object or insert themselves. No one did. “The protective spells that were cast on the prophecies had been lifted so that officials could aid in the cleanup. They were asked not to use magic in an attempt to sift through the remnants more carefully and thoughtfully; the Unspeakables were frantic to discover what had been preserved and what could be salvaged.
“I found one—one that managed to survive the battle. When I saw the names, I couldn’t help myself.” It was then that Remus reached into the deep pocket of his robe and produced an orb that seemed to glow dimly in his hand. It had a spider web crack on the side facing them, and a few scuffs near the place where Remus’s thumb met the orb. It looked a bit strange to Evelyn, who immediately saw the label that Remus’s other hand had turned to face them. In the firelight, Evelyn could see written on the label four brief rows of text:
S.P.T to A.I.M.C. and I.W.C.
Seeing her name there, next to her sister’s, felt impossible.
“Whose initials are those?” Elizabeth said softly, turning to Minerva who was seated next to her.
“I believe the first belong to the Divination professor at the school,” Albus responded first, followed by their aunt.
“The others are your parents—Athena Isobel McGonagall Castell and Ian William Castell.”
It was quiet for several minutes before Evelyn had the courage to ask, “Did you know? Any of you?” Quiet followed again as the adults exchanged glances, eyeing one another and avoiding Evelyn’s and Elizabeth’s eyes.
“I knew about this prophecy.” The sentence came so quietly and confidently from her elder aunt that Evelyn didn’t even initially register surprise. “Athena told me about it. In fact, Sybill made it on the grounds of Hogwarts.”
“You can’t be serious—“ Demeter sounded more indignant than Evelyn felt. She looked sideways at her sister, who seemed to be staring pointedly at a freckle on her left knee.
“Demeter, Athena begged me not to tell anyone—and you were still so young. It was only 1981, the girls hadn’t even turned one yet.”
“Had mother died?”
“It had only been a few weeks. You had just come to live with me, and Athena had come to visit with Ian for the Easter Holiday. We decided to stay at Hogwarts, because you were just getting use to being there with me.” With an encouraging nod from Albus, Minerva continued. “Athena and Ian were taking the girls for a walk on the grounds. They could barely toddle, but it was a warm day and they wanted to get some fresh air after Easter supper. When they came back to my quarters, they were so shaken—I’d never seen Ian like that. You know how he was. That’s when they told me.”
“I cannot believe you didn’t feel the need to tell me this! Or that Athena kept it from me—and look at Remus, it’s apparent he didn’t know either! All of these people, we could have protected them. We could have used the prophecy to better understand the danger.” Demeter was struggling for words, trying to find a way to understand why this had been withheld from her.
Her eldest sister reached across the backs of their nieces, just barely able to touch the tips of her fingers onto Demeter’s shoulder. The look on her face was sad and soft. In this light, Aunt Minnie looked much older than the last time they’d seen her. “No, Demeter, no. It wouldn’t have made a difference. As far as I can tell, the prophecy is about something else—it’s about the girls, themselves, not about Athena or her family generally.”
Tears had leaked out from the corners of Demeter’s eyes, and Evelyn felt it was necessary to comfort her aunt in some way. She placed her hand on her aunt’s knee, and smiled at her tightly. Grief seemed to settle on all of their shoulders, and Evelyn hated the way it had sat around them since their arrival. It was beginning to fell unbearable; the weight alone was at times too much for her, and she felt suffocated by it, as though her body hadn’t been built to properly deal with all of these emotions.
After Remus offered Demeter a handkerchief and she spent a few moments dabbing her eyes, Evelyn looked at Dumbledore and asked softly, “Can we hear it then? If it’s about us, I want to hear it.”
“Are you sure? Once you have heard it, it cannot be unheard.”
Evelyn looked briefly at Elizabeth, who hadn’t spoken or moved throughout the conversation, and then at Demeter, who looked small and angry next to her on the couch. Then she looked back at Dumbledore, at the aging face that was increasingly familiar to her, and nodded sharply. “We should all know, I think.”
Dumbledore nodded, lips closed tightly together. He motioned towards Remus with his hand, and Remus held out the glowing orb to Evelyn.
“You’ll both have to take it.”
It was then that Elizabeth looked up. Evelyn turned towards her sister, the orb cradled in her hands, and Elizabeth placed her hands gingerly under her sister’s hands so that they, together, held the orb. Immediately, the light coming from within the orb strengthened and an unfamiliar voice rose along with the light.
“Born under Gemini, two with a weight in the war… One… As Helen did Troy… The other… Clytemnestra… Loved as she was loved, betrayed as she was betrayed… Either must die at the hand of the other for neither can live while the other survives… Beware the Goddess of Discord… Betrayed as she was betrayed—”
When the voice drifted away and the prophecy ended, Evelyn lifted her eyes from the glowing orb in her hands and met the eyes of her sister. White spots of light danced across her vision, and no one seemed to be breathing.
Almost four thousand miles away, a boy with a lightening bolt scar sat up in bed. Pain rippled across his forehead, and his breath was the only jagged sound in the dark bedroom. He could feel his pajama top cling to his chest, as he tried to throw off his covers and orient himself to the room. The pain was too much, however, and his feet slipped on the cold floorboards.
The loud thudding of Harry’s knees meeting the floor brought Ron to the door, “Mate?”
“Something’s happened—“ was all Harry could manage.
Author's Note: I'm really excited to share this chapter with you all, and to see what you think of this development! I've been working towards this moment, which I know has been alluded to throughout the series thus far. I know the suspense of the prophecy isn't necessarily the driver of the plot, but it is a major component! Let me know what you think... or what you fear! There's definitely a mess ahead for Evelyn and Elizabeth. Always, Antigone xx
Credits: The line "either must die at the hand of the other for neither can live while the other survives" is originally from the work of JK Rowling. The banner was created by me.
Chapter 28: Lucky Bird
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For EmmyBacon, who is always so lovely. Chapter image by me.
“He was happy about something. He knows something now that he’s wanted to know for some time. I’m not sure if he intended to let me know—to taunt me—or if he lost control of himself for a moment.”
Harry had just finished recounting the episode from the previous night to Dumbledore, who had arrived at breakfast in response to an owl from Mrs. Weasley. He felt his frustration fade to nervousness as he locked eyes with the headmaster, but he hesitated to ask more. Their lessons had been going so well, and he worried briefly that he had disappointed Dumbledore.
“I fear that this may mean Voldemort has learned of something we’ve been attempting to keep from him. There is little that can be done if he has—but I’ll need to leave immediately, Harry, to attempt to verify my suspicion. I’m sorry I won’t be able to tell you more just now.” He was already standing to leave, “But I will send for you when we return from the holidays to resume our lessons. Perhaps I will have news for you then.
“Thank you for the tea, Molly,” was the last sentence out of his mouth before he disappeared with a pop. Mrs. Weasley looked briefly at the blank wall that had been behind Albus Dumbledore before he had disapparated, and then looked at Harry. The tight smile on her face did nothing to reassure him.
He left the kitchen, too, and sought out Ron. In moments like these, he would prefer the quiet rationale of Hermione, and he wished there was an easy way to reach her just then. He found, instead, his moody friend sitting on his bed, staring at the photo they had received the previous night, just before bed.
Ron didn’t even look up as Harry entered. Instead, he immediately started in on the line of questions they had hashed over after the note had arrived from Hermione with the enclosed photo. A group of mostly unfamiliar faces were huddling together, trying to stay focused on the camera but every once in awhile adjusting their hair or leaning over to the person next to them. At one point a guy with round cheeks and a bright smile elbowed Hermione, one of two familiar faces in the frame, and they laughed together as she tried to maintain her balance.
Harry was actually appreciative of the distraction, and allowed his eyes to wander across the faces in the Polaroid. The girls were nice looking, and he looked at them each in turn before shifting his attention to Evelyn, who was standing on the other side of the round-cheeked guy. She was wearing a dress he had never seen before, but that he had a deep appreciation for, as she looked almost glamorous—and very American. The material looked like silk or satin (he didn’t really know) and he wondered briefly what it would have felt like to touch it.
As he contemplated that image, the guy standing slightly behind her looked out of the corner of his eye—and Harry swore they must have been thinking the same thing based on the look that came over his face. Then, the guy draped an arm around Evelyn and pulled her close in a half-embrace. She took a step back, trying to focus on the camera still, but laughing a little in the way she had only recently begun to do around Harry. Her eyes briefly moved from the camera to the guy, and she looked easy. That must be him, Harry thought to himself, his jaw tensing involuntarily.
“Who is this guy? And what’s with the look on her face?” Ron was saying, his words sputtering a bit and his general countenance cross.
“She looks happy,” Harry admitted, grimacing. Before Evelyn had left, Harry had felt certain that they were on the verge of something. He wasn’t quite sure what, but it had felt as if there had been a charge between the two of them since the end of the term and he had even thought to himself since her departure that if she had remained for just a day longer that something would have started between them. He couldn’t put his finger on it exactly, didn’t know how to detail it, but he had been certain that she had noticed that charged thing between them, too. He had even thought that the morning of her departure, she was attempting to communicate this inarticulatable thing. A look had passed over her face, which she had so intently focused on him. Yet, he couldn’t quite understand it and felt as though neither of them had the vocabulary yet to know what was happening. He had been eager for her to return to ask—to finally be direct.
And now, she looked easy with him. On her way out with him.
Harry felt foolish.
“Bloody hell,” Ron huffed, not realizing they were talking about different girls but summarizing Harry’s feelings neatly.
Evelyn woke alone in the bed she had shared the previous night with Hermione. The room was empty, and it must have been close to dawn because the light had begun to change.
She tried to move, and was struck by how tight and sore her body felt. Briefly, she felt dizzy, but assumed she was just dehydrated. The entire night was there with her, and she knew exactly what had happened. She’d had another episode, another remembering. She wondered briefly what had caused it, and if it had been that moment with Theo or if it had been something Elizabeth had experienced herself.
The memory hung heavy over her, and she knew—this had been the memory that had convinced Aunt Minnie to allow them to pursue the amnesia charm. This had been the memory that had skewed everything after her parents’ deaths. This had to be the one they warned her about. It had brought about a motive for their murders, and it had brought about a general cloud of fear and distrust. Who else could have known about the prophecy? How did they know, and—more importantly—how much did they know?
Those had been the immediate questions, and when the adults seemed too nervous, too scared, too sad, they had asked Evelyn and Elizabeth to leave. She could still feel the indignation that had filled her when Aunt Demeter had begged them for just a few minutes for the adults to talk amongst themselves.
It hadn’t been the earnestness in her voice that had made her concede, however. It had been the masks of worry sported by every adult in the room. Each was different: Remus’s sad eyes strained and defeated, almost blank in their stare as she looked at him. Aunt Demeter’s lips tightened so much that they looked white, fear in the wings of her glances as she looked around the room, searching for details. Aunt Minnie wearing the vacant stare of someone that has heard something before but had forgotten key details and was now confronted with the weight of those details. Albus Dumbledore, somber behind his half-moon glasses, wearing the blankest expression of the lot.
She couldn’t believe she had been able to suppress those eyes, even with magic. As she lay in the bed, body tired and sore, light slowly changing, she felt those eyes on her still. A cold fear was spreading across her body—not just from the memory. She feared Elizabeth, and what she might do with such a memory.
A rustling on the other side of the bedroom door interrupted her thoughts. Someone was trying too hard to be quiet, and was instead causing a decent amount of noise. The knob turned and the door slid open, a wedge of light coming into the room and crossing over her. She looked at the dark figure, her eyes taking a moment to adjust though she could tell immediately by the shape of the form that it was Hermione.
“You’re awake? Good.” She said softly, tiptoeing into the bedroom. The relief in her voice was evident. She took a seat on the edge of the bed, her face creased with concern. “How are you feeling?”
“It’s a little like last time, but not as bad. Honestly it feels mostly like a hangover.”
“Do you need anything?”
“I think I should get up, probably. I can get what I need.” Her limbs were reluctant to move as she raised herself up, and Hermione watched her closely, the concern still there. “In a minute.” She smiled hesitantly, relaxing back into her pillow.
Hermione moved onto the bed, carefully taking the place next to Evelyn that she had occupied the previous night. “Is this okay?”
“Of course—I’m sorry you felt like you couldn’t sleep here last night. Obviously it would have been fine.”
“No,” Hermione shook her head, “You were thrashing quite a bit. I was worried you were going to hurt yourself, actually, but the boys stayed and they—they held you down until you were calmer.”
Shame settled over Evelyn, and she felt embarrassed. She would have preferred to be ridiculously drunk then to be the victim of an episode like this, and she hated that it had happened here. She had wanted this to be a vacation, a time away with her old friends, and she had almost felt returned to herself. But as soon as her guard was down, as soon as she stopped being vigilant, this happened.
“I feel so foolish.” She muttered, her cheeks warm.
“You shouldn’t—there’s no way you could have known. But your friends were a bit freaked out. You didn’t tell them, did you?”
“Not really—no.” Evelyn admitted, “I wasn’t ready to tell Lacey, and then I didn’t want to tell her while I was here. I just wanted to have fun. I wanted to feel like normal here.”
“I don’t blame you,” Hermione admitted, “But I had to tell them—after you started seizing. They were thinking about taking you to the hospital, but I knew that it wouldn’t do any good. I had to tell them everything about the amnesia charm, and the remembering you underwent after Bonfire Night. I think Lacey and Theo were a bit upset with me…. I told them that part, too.”
“They would be,” Evelyn admitted, thinking on all the times they had been on her side, even when she had been wrong. May and Devon were much more logical, and Bobby chose to avoid conflict entirely if he could help it. “But they’ll get over it, once they know I’m okay.”
“They’ll be happy to know it, too. Theo sat up with you until four this morning. That was until Lacey’s mom demanded he get some sleep because it looked like you were finally sleeping. I was actually coming in to check on you. I didn’t know how long you’d be out for—after last time.”
Evelyn nodded, pausing for a few moments. She raised her hands to her face, rubbing her temples briefly. “I still feel like an idiot. I hate that this happened.”
“These people love you, Evie. Trust me, even if you didn’t think they did I can attest to it after staying up with them all night. You don’t have to feel that way here.” She paused, “I mean, I don’t think you have to feel that way at home either, but you definitely don’t have to feel that way here.” Her tone was flat and factual, and she looked at her friend out of the side of her eye with that look she gave professors in class when she knew she had the right answer.
Evelyn tried to let the feelings go, but it was with difficulty. She knew it would take some time, especially with the memory still hanging about her so heavily. She briefly contemplated telling Hermione about it, but hesitated, knowing that the adults had stressed its delicacy and its importance. She knew that Hermione wanted to know, it was just in her nature. Curiosity was always there. But, she knew that she couldn’t tell her friend until she knew whether or not it was the memory she had been warned of. Instead, she asked, “Can you tell me what happened? After I passed out.”
“What do you remember?”
“We were at that club, and we were dancing. I think you were dancing with Bobby, and I was talking to Theo. And I felt drunk, everyone was so close and it was hot and loud. He said something to me, about this time we snuck out together,” She paused, looking at the wall as she recounted, trying to use its blank surface to visualize the previous night. “He said something, and it was the craziest thing. Like last time, but different, if that makes sense. I could feel myself falling, but I think he caught me. I’m not sure, everything went black then.”
“Yeah, Theo essentially caught you—it was like you passed out, and he kind of sunk to the ground with you. Your body went rigid at first, and then it was almost like you were having a seizure. All these people were staring, and Theo didn’t know what to do. Hell, none of us really did. At least last time, the professors had been there. They had reacted. This time, Bobby was the first one to get a sense of anything. He lifted you up, and we rushed you out of the club, back here, before any of the Muggles could call an ambulance. We were lucky there weren’t too many Muggles around, we turned down the first alley we could and apparated.
“I had to keep insisting you weren’t ill and we couldn’t take you anywhere. We just had to let you go, and make sure you didn’t hurt yourself unknowingly. But, once I told them the possible side effects, they were even more anxious. To think, you could have—” Hermione trailed off momentarily, and Evelyn realized she was holding her hand. Her friend’s fingers were cold. “We were really worried. All of us. I’m so glad it was only the night.”
Saturday and Sunday fled quickly after the drama of Friday night, and Evelyn was happy to remind her friends again and again that everything was fine and their plans should go on as they had originally intended. She was sore, but she wasn’t injured, and she was happy to walk around the district on Saturday and then devote herself to her girlfriends on Sunday. The girls were equally delighted to devote themselves to a spa treatment, which they agreed was probably best for Evelyn anyway.
In fact, it was the boys who wore worried faces long after the girls had relaxed. Bobby, who had carried her through the crowd on Friday night, still looked as though he was carrying her with him on Monday when he arrived for the goodbye dinner that Lacey’s parents were putting on. He hugged her upon arrival, holding on to her much longer than usual.
“Bobby, let her breathe!” Lacey joked, placing wine glasses at the place settings around the table. He pulled away only after Lacey had set the last glass and moved to leave the dining room.
“Sorry, didn’t mean to squeeze too hard.”
“You never knew your own strength,” Evelyn joked, smiling up at him. His eyes were sad, and he didn’t chuckle, so she added, “I’m fine though, you know.”
“That’s what you keep saying.”
“You would know if she was lying,” a voice came from the other side of the room, and they both turned to see Theo standing there. In the other room, Evelyn could hear the familiar voices of May and Devon chattering just out of earshot. “Remember, she was always a complainer.”
“How sweet of you—and on my last night here!”
He moved towards her, enveloping her in his arms without response. She hugged him back, and tried not to think too much about his arms around her or about what had happened the last time his arms had been around her. Hugging Theo had, in her previous life, been equated with safety and reassurance. She had often felt like she needed his arms. While she still felt safe there, it lacked the spark that it used to carry with it. She didn’t feel dependent on him anymore.
When they pulled apart, he asked quietly so only she could hear, “You are okay, aren’t you?” He reached up to tuck a strand of hair behind her ear, and she noticed how his eyes had filled with affection. Bobby must have excused himself because she could hear him talking to May in the other room, and she was alone with Theo.
“I am,” Her voice was softer than she had intended, and she feared she sounded fragile. She didn’t feel fragile. She didn’t want him to think she was. She rolled her shoulders down her back and tried to sound as strong as she felt. “You don’t have to worry about me.”
The smile that appeared on his face was a bit sardonic in the corners, and he said simply, “I’ll worry about you the rest of my life, Evie.”
She didn’t have a chance to reply before her friends came into the dining room, led by Lacey who was telling them about the meal and immediately began to point out seats for everyone. Evelyn was happy to have a reason to move away from Theo, whose words were still ringing in her ears. She found her seat between Hermione and Lacey, across from Theo, who had Bobby on his left, across from Hermione, and his brother on his right, across from Lacey and next to May. Lacey’s mother arrived, dishes hovering behind her, which she guided expertly to the tabletop with her wand. Lacey’s father and younger brother also came into the room, the latter taking the seat next to Lacey while their parents took the opposing seats at the ends of the table.
“It has always been my pleasure to welcome Lacey’s friends into our home,” Miranda Coupe began, instantly grabbing everyone’s attention. She didn’t seem to notice the many adolescent eyes locked on her; instead, she was looking lovingly at her husband as she spoke. “From the moment May introduced Evie to Lacey, I knew the three of you would be friends. You seemed to compliment one another. I’m sure the boys, who found the three of you a few years later, would agree. You were already a set by then.”
She paused briefly, her posture changing slightly as she continued. “I know this past year has been incredibly difficult for you, Evie. It has been difficult for us—and we have had to deal with only a fraction of it. I will admit that part of my reason for having you come to us for the holiday was simply to get eyes on you, to make sure you were coping okay.”
Evelyn could feel her cheeks burn as Lacey’s mother continued. She tried to keep her eyes on Miranda, knowing that if she looked at any of her friends she risked crying.
Miranda continued, “And you are—I think. You arrived here a few days ago, different only in that you have become more mature, more sincere, and stronger. You have taken this horrible thing and grown around it with the grace that I always knew you to possess. I am so proud of the young woman sitting here with us, of all of you really. Thank you for coming back to us, if only for a little while, and for keeping us in your life despite the changes that have come to pass. There are more changes ahead, but I know Lacey and May—and Hermione—will be there to support you, and love you, and help you endure.”
She raised her glass, which had filled with red wine while she spoke, and Evelyn, brushing a few tears from the corners of her eyes, lifted her own glass in response along with all of the others seated at the table. “To Evelyn, a dear friend and a member of our family. And to the changes ahead for all of you young people. Let you navigate them with grace, love, and the support of one another.”
“Here, here!” Lacey’s father added as glasses clattered together across the table and everyone took deep drinks from their wine glasses.
Their full bellies at the end of the meal didn’t stifle the effects of the wine, and by the time the plates had been cleared magically, they were all giggling needlessly as they shared stories from their lives, past and present, as well as recent happenings around Maryland, London, and the magical world. The adults and Lacey’s younger brother were the first to excuse themselves from the table, with Miranda returning an hour later to hush them. By then all the wine bottles seemed to be empty, and everyone was hoarse with laughter.
It was exactly the way Evelyn wanted to end her time in America. The drama of Friday night was gone, and only good memories remained for them to remind each other of. By the end of the night, when the guests were departing, Evelyn was in such high spirits that she couldn’t even reject Theo’s advance. He kissed her full on the lips, the same kiss as she’d received so many times. But when she pulled away, it all felt different. She smiled at him, the high of the evening fading slightly, and said, “Thank you for reminding me of that, too.”
She felt somehow that this would be the last time she ever saw Theo, and she felt too that he knew this.
In bed, next to Hermione, she could think only of green eyes and the way they flashed with delight and determination during dueling practice.
A cold eastward wind struck Evelyn and Hermione across the face as they exited the International Floo Station the next day. Evelyn could feel soot from the floo trip stuck to her face, most likely where her tears had yet to dry. Leaving Lacey was harder than leaving the others. Though she loved them all, Lacey was her best friend—and promising to write didn’t change the fact that they would be so far removed from one another.
However, being back in London helped more than she thought it would. She hadn’t realized how homesick she had been until she saw her aunts waiting for them next to the information desks. An identical smile had come over Evelyn’s, Demeter’s, and Minerva’s faces as they had welcomed her with tight hugs. Demeter had placed quick kisses on each of her niece’s cheeks, and Minerva had fixed her hair. Both were glowing with gratitude.
Now they crossed the street, together with Hermione, headed back towards Grimmauld Place. They took the long way, walking instead of using magical transportation, and people bustled around them. A Muggle woman was purchasing some flowers from a vendor on the street, and she cheerfully wished him a happy new year.
Evelyn loved the feeling of the last day of the year. Particularly this year, it felt as though so many things were behind her—good and bad—and so much that was unknown was ahead of her.
“I believe some of your friends are planning on attending a party this evening,” Demeter said cheerfully, looking at Evelyn and Hermione out of the corner of her eye. “Harry and Ron were getting ready to leave when we left to meet you. They were going to help set up.”
Hermione looked mildly surprised, and Evelyn said, “Yes—Harry told me before we left. I was hoping you might spare me tonight.”
“You mean to say that you have gone away from us for almost a week, and now would like to spend one more night away?” Minnie asked, a chiding tone to her voice.
“Well, yes, that is what I mean to say.” Evelyn smiled her most winning smile.
Minnie and Demeter exchanged a look, and ceded without further rebuttals. They were delighted to have their niece back, looking happier and lighter than she had in quite some time, and couldn’t have said no to something so ordinary as teenagers celebrating the new year.
“You’ll probably want to rest a bit first, though. That’s all I’ll say.” Demeter noted, gesturing with her pointer finger to the bags that hung a little under Evelyn and Hermione’s eyes. They had gotten up early to pack their things and to have breakfast with Lacey’s family. Coupled with the time change, the whole day felt truncated and endless at the same time.
“I think that’s a fair stipulation.” Hermione said, shifting her bag on her shoulder. “It’s been a long trip, and I didn’t know we had plans for the evening!”
Evelyn was happy to find Grimmauld Place a little quieter, but just the same. She shared a small lunch with her aunts, Hermione, and Molly Weasley before agreeing to take a few hours to rest before they left. Hermione promised to wake her in an hour or so, giving them enough time to get ready before heading over to the twins’ shop.
Unfortunately, Hermione was only almost perfect. It felt as though Evelyn had only just laid her head down on her pillow when the lights were thrown up, the curtains pushed open, and a frenzied voice came to her, at first gurgled and then clear: “We’ve overslept! Evelyn, get up!”
She felt groggy and uncertain as she squinted into the bright room, the silhouette obviously belonging to Hermione but the shapes not clear to her yet. “Overslept?” She muttered, rubbing her eyes. There must have still been soot in the corners of them, because they felt gritty and she wished briefly that she had showered before lying down.
“Overslept! It’s nearly eleven!”
“In the morning?” She was still confused.
“At night! New Years!”
Everything clicked into place suddenly, and Evelyn felt her body moving faster, meeting Hermione’s pace. They needed to be cleaner, and dressed, and they needed to go—and it had to be done very quickly.
Harry looked idly at the streamers hanging from the ceiling. They looked festive and orderly, which was surprising only because the twins had been the ones to fix them in place.
The flat above the shop was a small two-bedroom with a large living room and a tiny, forgettable kitchen. It was made smaller by the number of people they’d invited, and by the large number of balloons that filled the spaces left between the rows of streamers.
Harry stood by the punchbowl, which was very obviously spiked, sipping his drink and only half-listening to the conversation between Seamus and Dean. He let his eyes scan over the crowd, wondering if the girls had arrived and he just hadn’t known. They hadn’t.
Somehow, he felt as though he would know as soon as Evelyn entered the room.
He spied Ron and Lavender a few feet away. Lavender was doing most of the talking, and Ron was doing most of the drinking. Ginny was near her brothers, who were talking to Lee Jordan animatedly. He didn’t feel inclined to join any of those conversations, and watched instead as people moved around the room, in and out of other conversations that he also didn’t feel the need to be apart of.
“What’s with the long face, Harry?” A soft voice came to him over his shoulder, and his stomach jumped briefly at the slight unfamiliarity of the voice. However, as he turned he realized the American accent wasn’t there. It wasn’t her. Instead, it was Serenity Savior. Her sharp eyes were giving him the once over as she poured herself some punch. He had never talked much to the Ravenclaw, but was familiar enough with her to know she was a nice enough person. He knew that Evelyn considered her a friend, and realized it would probably be best to make small talk with her.
“Hermione and Evelyn were supposed to be back from their trip by now, but they haven’t arrived. I was just wondering where they might be.” He said, and then added, “It’s not necessarily safe, you know? These days.” It sounded silly, but he didn’t want to let on that he was waiting for either of them.
“Yeah, Evelyn wrote to me while she was gone—just a few lines, but she did seem to think she’d make it here. I’m surprised I haven’t seen her yet, but I’m sure there’s nothing to worry about.” And then, more quietly, “I’m sure if there was, we would have received warning from the Order by now.”
He nodded; his jaw tightened as he realized that the worry he had spoken of wasn’t without foundation. “You’re right,” he ceded, though he still felt uneasy.
“Your friend doesn’t look like he’s having the best time.” Serenity said suddenly, changing the subject and turning to face the same direction he was. He smiled at her astuteness, and agreed. Ron looked quite miserable. “I’ve heard a few funny stories about them.”
“I’d love to know them myself,” Harry said, feeling himself relax a little. Though he hadn’t felt like talking to anyone, Serenity was proving to be a nice conversation partner. It helped to distract him from the time that passed. “I’ve avoided their company as often as possible. It’s been easier than you might imagine—without a girlfriend of my own, Lavender doesn’t find me very interesting.”
“Lavender doesn’t find much very interesting.” Serenity said softly, sipping her punch. “But, unfortunately I don’t think I can tell you these stories—they were shared in confidence.”
“Evelyn, of course. I haven’t talked much to Hermione outside of Ancient Runes. It’d be nice to be her friend, based on what I know from Evelyn, but I keep a low profile. I’m more of an observer, you might say.”
“Really?” He raised his brows, turning away only to refill his own cup of punch. “What have you observed tonight?”
“Quite a bit,” when she smiled, just the right corner of her mouth perked up. It made her look mysterious. “Should I tell you, or should we just wait to see what happens?”
Harry never had a chance to reply as Christian Graves appeared at his side at that moment, his hand extended to Serenity. “You demanded to be dancing into 1997. I’m here to meet your demands.”
“You are an excellent friend,” Serenity returned, throwing back the rest of her punch and taking his hand. “I’ll fill you in later, Harry” was all she said in departure. He watched her pulled away, noting they’d have a full half-hour to dance before the New Year was ushered in. Christian spun her awkwardly, before pulling her into his chest, and the pair laughed heartily as they teetered back and forth among more somber-looking couples. The dance floor was barely formed, with only three or four other couples there. The space was tight, and Christian held Serenity close to him as they chatted and swayed.
His eyes flitted to the doorway briefly, and then the fireplace, before looking back to the punchbowl. He busied himself with filling his cup, aware of Ginny standing next to him.
“Top me up?” She said sweetly, smiling at him. He raised the ladle again, filling her cup.
“I probably shouldn’t have done that,” he said, smiling back at her. “Your brothers won’t like that you’ve been into the spiked punch.”
“Oh Harry,” she chuckled, “I spiked the punch.”
He choked a bit on his drink, laughing spasmodically and shaking his head. “You know, that actually doesn’t surprise me.” He could feel his head lighten with the drink, and he was struck suddenly by Ginny herself—the way the light shined on her hair, and the way her eyes sparkled mischievously. She leaned in close to him and knocked her shoulder against his, the way she did sometimes as they were leaving Quidditch practice. “You’ve really grown up, Gin.”
“Took you long enough to notice.” She didn’t move away from him, instead leaning against him with her eyes locked on him. Her hand was resting on his arm, and he wasn’t quite sure when she’d placed it there.
“Did you want to dance, Harry?” She said after a few moments of silence. She hadn’t taken her eyes off him, and he felt flatted knowing that he held her attention so fully. A few others had moved to join the couples the dance floor since Serenity and Christian had moved there, and Harry agreed, disinterested in dancing itself but happy to have something to do with someone who suddenly seemed more interesting—and more interested.
With little time to spare, Evelyn had opted for one of her go-to outfits—a two-piece ensemble that paired a matching black tank, cut to her waist, with an A-line skirt that allowed a slip of skin to show between the set. She threw her favorite leather jacket on and some heeled mules, tousling her hair over the collar and flying from the room and into Hermione’s. She had cast a few glamor charms, but went with a mostly nude look, despite how tired she must have looked.
Hermione’s floor was littered with outfits, but she had settled on a floral print sheath dress that stopped above her knee with long sleeves. It was fitted across the bodice, accenting her tiny waist. Her hair too was casually thrown about, looking mostly worse for wear—as Evelyn knew hers did.
“Good enough,” Hermione said breathlessly, passing Evelyn in the doorway and leading them down the stairs. It took them only a few minutes to check in with Evelyn’s aunts and Molly Weasley before they were allowed to depart, forced to take the Floo Network for lack of a better option.
Their good fortune in arriving just before midnight was hampered further by being forced to knock at the twins’ grate, which had been locked to prevent party crashing. They happily obliged in letting them in, though it took a long time for their knock to be answered. As they dusted themselves off on the hearth, they realized why. Loud music was playing, and couples were dancing off to the side. George and Fred were quite tipsy, and Fred fumbled with the lock on the grate for a full minute after they had exited before properly welcoming them.
Hermione attempted to help him while Evelyn embraced George, smiling widely and thanking him for the invitation.
“Of course I’d want you here,” he replied, looking at her with eyes warmed with liquor. “Can I get you something? It’s almost midnight—a drink would be in order, if you ask me.”
“I’d be happy to order a drink,” she replied, scanning the room. She noticed Ron immediately, tucked away into a corner with Lavender Brown, but she didn’t notice Harry or Serenity, who said she’d be attending in her most recent letter. She gestured to Hermione to follow her, which successfully drew her to the opposite side of the room as Ron, and she brought Fred along with her, the other Weasley twin laughing as he exchanged banter with Hermione.
George handed them both cups, brimming with punch, and Evelyn’s eyes widened as she brought it to her mouth, trying carefully to sip without spilling. They threw back quick drinks, George claiming it was their duty to “catch up,” and Hermione obliging after finally spying Ron when she scanned the room.
They had thrown back three or four drinks in only a few minutes, and Evelyn was already feeling the effects when George reached towards her, brushing a piece of hair from her face and saying just loud enough to be heard over the music, “How were your travels?”
“We had a good time, but I’m happy to be home.”
“Home, eh?” He raised a brow, his smile widening. He looked warm all over, and she knew it was the firewhiskey.
“Yeah, starting to feel that way.”
“Feel your way, eh?” Fred interjected, snickering, “Not a bad idea. What do you think, Hermione?”
“You want to feel a way?” Hermione hadn’t been able to hear him well over the music, and she furrowed her brow, looking critical.
“Yes!” Fred replied, laughing. “With you. Angelina isn’t here, and there are no desirable dance partners left. Let me give you a twirl—I promise I’m as light on my feet as Ron.” He elbowed her with the last part, delight dawning on his face as she blushed. “And I promise not to let my hands roam,” he added cheekily.
She glanced briefly at the clock on the wall, noting that the time was ticking away and that it would soon be midnight. Looking once at Evelyn, who tried to look encouraging, she agreed, allowing him to lead her to a space nearby between a set of swaying couples.
“Should we follow their lead?” Evelyn asked, setting her empty cup down and grinning at George. She had been hoping to find Harry upon her arrival, but the room was crowded and she didn’t want to miss the countdown. George was sweet and funny—better to spend it with him than alone, she mused.
George took her hand wordlessly, as if he had been waiting for the opportunity, and led her to a spot near Hermione and his brother. As he began to move her around in a basic two-step, she gained a better view of the other dancers and was happy to see Serenity and Christian dancing (a bit goofily). She waved enthusiastically as soon as she caught their attention, though they were too far apart to talk to just then. They carried on a bit, miming back and forth—including Christian singing along to the record that was playing—before Evelyn turned her eyes back to George.
“Thank you for inviting my friends,” she said softly.
“I wanted you to come.”
“Really? Why was that?”
“Because, out of everyone here, you’re the one in most need of a new year.”
She paused, locking eyes with him as she digested his words. He was tipsy—maybe even drunk—but he was honest. She wasn’t angered or shocked by his reasoning however; she knew he was right. Cocking her head to the side a bit, and keeping her eyes on him, she nodded, “That is probably true.”
He grinned toothily, spinning her away from him and then bringing her back to his chest. After a moment of silence, he said, “You’re a lucky bird, you know that?”
“Lucky? That doesn’t seem right, especially after your comment on my year,” she retorted, making light of it.
“No, it’s an old superstition, I think. My mother is one for wives’ tales, and I think it use to be that the last to arrive—the last footer—was sometimes called the Lucky Bird. And they’ve got to knock to be let in. That brings luck to the household.” His brow wrinkled as he tried to recall, “I think that’s how it went. Close to it, at least.”
She thought it over, “I like it. I hope it’s an indication of the year to come. I’ll be a lucky bird.”
“I think so,” he replied. He held her gaze in silence after that, quieter than she’d ever witnessed him to be. Though, to be fair, it was only for a few seconds—as the room soon erupted with the traditional new years countdown.
When the crowd reached one, fireworks burst across the ceiling and the fading sparks were transfigured into confetti, falling gently on the crowd as everyone laughed and shouted and exchanged kisses. George briefly pecked her lips, pulling back tentatively to ensure he didn’t anger her. She smiled, reaching up to knock some confetti out of his hair. It was a nice kiss, but it wasn’t the one she wanted.
She looked first at Hermione, who was laughing as Fred spoke to her in an affected French accent and gave her sloppy kisses on both of her cheeks. Then, she looked at Serenity, who was receiving a soft kiss from Christian on her forehead. Her eyes moved to Ron, who seemed to have his face smooshed so much against Lavender’s that it was impossible to know if he was even able to comprehend the concept of time, let alone recognize the passage into a new year.
As her eyes moved across the crowd to come back to George, they caught another couple, kissing deeply. As others pulled away, they stayed lip locked. Tiny hands wandered through fitful, unruly hair. A long sheet of red hair hung almost to his hands, which were locked on the girl’s waist. There was an earnestness surrounding the couple like an aura, and they looked almost scenic together—as if the pairing was so perfectly balanced that it should have been expected. As her brain began to process the figures as recognizable and familiar, Evelyn’s heart stopped.
It was Ginny that was kissing Harry. Harry kissing Ginny.
Author's Note: So! There it is! I must admit I'm smirking a little bit as I write this, though I hope this twist doesn't hurt my Evelyn fans too much. Classic miscommunication and uncertainty... I can't make it easy, can I? We love that slow burn!
Plus, as you know, I'm trying to keep the story close to canon (even though its marked AU) so I couldn't just ignore that Harry and Ginny dated, could I?
Also, I've left a few Easter eggs here for the curious or for those familiar with new years traditions and myths.
Looking forward to hearing what you all think! xx, Antigone