Seventeen years later
September 7th, 2092
“Evie! Evie, sweetie!” Gary called up the stairs, heavily leaning on his cane for support. “Come on, love, your mother's waiting to see you. There's only so much time you can spend getting ready!”
“Ohh, you'd be surprised Dad!” Evie yelled back, and he chuckled.
“It's your family celebration for your birthday and you want to spend it in the bathroom? Deary me!” Gary exclaimed in reply. At this guilt tripping, Evie came running down the stairs, an apologetic smile gracing her features.
“I wouldn't miss it for the world,” Evie said quietly, and Gary bowed his head slightly. He gave his adopted daughter a tight squeeze and a kiss on the head as she hugged him back. The sound of heavy breathing reached their ears, and they hurried into the living room where Eleanor was sat in her favourite chair. She smiled at them both, which immediately turned into a grimace as she started to cough. Evie adjusted the medical equipment surrounding her, and Eleanor started to breathe easily once again. She resumed her smile.
“Seventeen at last, Evie!” Eleanor cried, her bright eyes juxtaposing with her gaunt face. Evie grinned back.
“Yes, it seems like forever. Still, eighteen is the really big one anyway.” she replied, noticing Eleanor and Gary look at one another. Evie pushed it to the back of her mind, focusing on the envelope and present before her. She looked up at them both knowingly. “You guys spoil me!”
“Yes, but we enjoy it!” Gary replied, settling himself on the sofa. He cast a sideways glance at his wife to check that she was alright whilst Evie ripped through the packaging like a small child. A necklace of white gold and sapphire fell out of the mess, making Evie gasp in delight.
“It's beautiful!” she cried, staring at the glittering stones in fascination. She’d also received a sum of money for driving lessons. Evie thanked them both by hugging them tightly, being as tender as she could with Eleanor. “I'll go and make some tea now.”
“Alright love. I'm tired; I could do with a good cuppa.” Eleanor stated, closing her eyes and taking a deep breath. Evie headed to the kitchen, thinking about her new presents whilst Gary went to go and get something from his study. She returned with a tray of cups and tea, offering some to Eleanor. When she didn’t respond, her smile disappeared.
Eleanor's eyes did not flutter open. A cold wave of distress shot through Evie's veins, crashing over her head and blurring her vision. Gary returned from his study, holding a wrapped package.
“There is something-“ he started, but he stopped mid-sentence when he saw Evie’s terrified face. He stared at his wife, the woman who had been at his side for decades with wide eyes. Ever so slowly, Evie inched her hands towards her adoptive mother's pulse point and recoiled with a cry as she felt none. Time seemed to slow as she took in her peaceful face, her lifeless body.
“She's gone...” Evie stated, and her voice finally cracked. Sinking into the sofa, all she could do was cry as her father comforted her, his own eyes rimmed with tears filled of the knowledge that he would never see his wife's smiling face again. Evie’s body was wracked with sobs until she could barely breathe; she didn’t feel her father’s comforting hand on her shoulder. All she could see was despair. Her mother was gone. There was a silence for what felt like hours.
“This is too soon,” Gary finally said. His voice sounded broken, as if he had just lost a part of himself. He looked down and stroked Evie's hair. She sniffed and vaguely remembered what day it was. Fresh tears threatened to fall.
“Cancer doesn't wait for birthdays,” she acknowledged bitterly. Rising from the sofa, she walked out of the room that would forever cause her turmoil and drifted upstairs. The house seemed a little colder, a little more worn now.
Gary sat back as his daughter left the room; he finally let the tears fall. Crying, he shuffled over to his wife’s body and laid his head on her lap as means of comfort. He didn’t know whether he would be strong enough for Evie; whether he could continue to protect her without Eleanor by his side. He clutched his chest as a fierce pang in his heart overwhelmed him. He sighed, bitterly thinking that this was his penance. He had not been entirely honest with his family.
He thought about the last time he went to the doctor about the heart problem he had diagnosed – it must have been month now, he was so caught up in caring for Eleanor. Gary had tried to hide it from the two as best as he could, and if either of them asked whether he was okay he would reply, “Fit as a fiddle. Nothing to worry about!” He hadn’t told her or Evie about it – there was no need to worry either of them, especially Evie. She had enough to deal with. As tears rained down his cheeks, he realised.
His days were running out: he could feel the sands of time running faster and faster, gaining momentum. Evie would have to know soon.
The next few days were slow torture for Evie. All she wanted to do was curl into a ball and stay in bed for the rest of her days. She only left her room for meals and shuffled back upstairs like a ghost. She didn’t talk.
Various people had come to pay their respects to her late adoptive mother She didn’t have the heart to turn them away, despite wanting to be alone. Some of the visitors were decidedly strange; one old man appeared with no bag and was not carrying anything, and yet a minute later was holding a large bouquet of flowers. Evie suspected that they had been picked from neighbouring gardens, but didn’t question him.
The other factor that made life so utterly miserable was that the death of Eleanor had taken the greatest toll possible on her father. He had told Evie about his condition and how it had gotten worse in recent months, but Evie thought the shock of losing his wife had had a major toll on his affliction. Gary had not left his room since, and barely ate anything. He quickly grew thin, his cheekbones protruding and eyes large. He didn’t bother to speak unless absolutely necessary and appeared to have lapsed into depression; Evie was beside herself with worry. The two doctors which Evie had desperately called could only sigh and recommend rest. In hear heart she knew what was soon to happen, but pushed the thought to the back of her mind.
She now sat in her father's room, applying a cold compress to his forehead. He licked his dry lips and spoke in barely a whisper.
“You need to know, Evie.”
“Need to know what?” Evie asked in a soothing voice, paying great care to make sure he was as comfortable as possible.
“You need to know about us... our world...”
This was the first time Gary had achieved proper speech in days. Evie leaned in closer, worry etched onto her features with a hint of piqued interest. “What world? What do you mean, dad?”
“You are different from the others... but we are even more different. They will want to find you eventually, your mother is gone and I ...” Gary coughed for what seemed like an age. Evie fetched a glass of water, growing increasingly anxious. What on earth was he on about?
“We cannot protect you any longer. You mustn't let them find you, Evie, do you hear me? Never! Your mother, she would not have wanted this... she left you in our care because she loved you, not because she didn't want you, remember that.” Gary finished, before closing his eyes and smiling. His breathing was shallow.
“Who's coming for me? What am I?!” Evie cried in desperation, hot tears threatening to let themselves known. She jolted her father awake. He eyed her curiously.
“You're not a normal squib, Evangeline.”
“What's a squib? What is this world?” The questions kept pouring out, each one rising in volume until she was crying, crying so hard that she couldn’t stop. She didn’t notice her father take his final, rattling breath until she looked up. He had passed on, a serene smile on his face.
Evie sank to her knees, the world spinning. She had lost both the people who she regarded as parents, who she trusted more than anyone, in less than a week. Sobbing unrelentingly, she finally rose and kissed her father's forehead.
Evie was frightened. Her father’s final words had made her paranoid and she hadn’t returned to school since his death. She mostly lay in bed, staring up at the ceiling until her eyes grey tired and weary. She didn’t feel like eating. She avoided the living room; the memories were still too fresh. As a sign of remembrance, she wore the necklace her parents had given her a week before constantly. She touched the delicate sapphire pieces fondly, as if it were a talisman against the evil her father had spoken of.
Around three days later, Evie received a knock on the door. After unlocking various bolts and locks, she was finally presented with a stern looking man who had glittering black eyes. She was slightly unnerved by the stranger.
“Hello. My name is Hector Mutegi, and may I firstly offer my dearest condolences on your loss. May I come in?” He smiled. Evie grunted and eyed him warily.
“Why are you here?” she asked roughly, unconvinced. What her father had told her was still at the front of her mind.
“I’m here on behalf of the... society that your parents belonged to. We are able to provide assistance for any plans that you have made for the funeral.”
Evie bit her lip, thinking of the growing worry that was money. She wasn’t sure how she was going to be able to pay for it all; she didn’t have access to her parents’ accounts and only had a small part time job at the newsagents round the corner. She gave in and opened the door wider, showing him into the living room. The man sat himself on the seat where her mother had been merely a week ago.
“It must have been a very hard time for you,” Hector stated, leaning forward and linking his eyes. His dark eyes avoided her as he looked around the room, uninterested. Evie’s eyes narrowed slightly as she formulated an answer.
“Thank you, I do appreciate it. It has been a truly difficult time for all of us who knew them.” Evie replied carefully. She couldn't help but stare as he was dressed smartly, but in a very eccentric manner – a tribal cloak fastened with an emerald jewel sat boldly on his shoulders, the sunlight making the gem dazzle. He looked to be in his fifties. His manner of walking and the way he held himself clearly suggested that he was a man of great importance.
“I've come to talk to you about the arrangement of your parent's funeral. I'm assuming you haven't dealt with this yet?” he asked.
“No, I'm afraid it has only been thought about. I was going to call the local parlour later today. I’ve rather been putting it off because of... well, funding.” Evie was embarrassed to admit the truth. She tried to hide her burning cheeks, but Hector didn’t seem to notice.
“The good news for you is that there's no need. The... society that your parents belonged to can provide any arrangements that need to be taken care of. You won't need to worry about a thing,” Hector finished. “We will, however, require your full name.” Hector’s eyes bored into Evie as she mulled over the proposition. Although she did not like the uneasy feeling that had settled, she felt compelled to say yes.
“Why exactly do you need my full name?” she asked in a guarded tone. There was something about the mysterious man that she didn’t like. Hector smiled, but it didn’t reach his eyes.
“Just for future records and so that we can contact you if needs be,” he replied smoothly. Evie sighed.
“My name is Evie Hart. Evangeline May Hart, if it’s needed for records.”
Hector froze. The only movement he made was the twirling of his jewel fastener, casting glimmers of light across the room. However, as soon as he showed any sort of recognition of her name, it disappeared almost immediately. Evie wondered for a brief second about whether she had imagined it.
“Thank you. We'll be in contact shortly.”
And with a final swish of his cloak, Hector Mutegi was gone. Evie quickly pushed the strange encounter out of her mind, and went about her day as usual, but pulled the covers a little closer around her as she fell asleep that night.
Evie woke with a start. She was absolutely positive that she could hear people in the house; a small knocking noise was coming from downstairs. The grandfather clock chimed three in the morning; the wind whistled through the trees outside, and a stair creaked. Evie could almost feel her heart stop.
Abruptly, several men wearing dark robe-like clothing seemingly appeared in Evie's room out of thin air. She started to scream, scrambling from her half sat position, but a man pointed a stick at her throat and her voice was gone. Evie clutched her throat helplessly, wondering what on earth had happened, when two of the men grabbed her roughly and hauled her into a standing position. Another two grabbed her legs so Evie felt herself suspended in mid air; she tried to kick and struggle but another point of those funny sticks left her paralysed.
Evie was terrified, still trying to lash out at the men. One of the cloaks had a logo emblazoned on the breast pocket, with the word 'Auror' underneath. She was confused and frightened, until she realised what her predicament was and that they were taking her outside. Her fear grew.
In a rush of adrenaline which surprised her, Evie desperately struggled against the men until she could feel her limbs starting to work together once again, and her voice slowly regaining power. The Auror, surprised, accidentally dropped her leg in confusion.
“What the hell is happening?” he said in a heavy Scottish accent, but Evie paid little attention. With one leg free, she kicked a second man in the face, freeing her other leg as he howled in pain, clutching his nose. The other men rushed over to see whether he was alright; she was free.
“Remember the orders!” a distant voice yelled, but this was soon forgotten as Evie raced for her life. The pitch black was dotted with the yellow tones of street lamps, providing a hazy orange glow against the night sky. Evie dashed along endless roads, passing rows of identical houses until she her lungs screamed for air and her body felt saturated with lactic acid. She wanted to pause, but the men were still in pursuit; she couldn't stop.
The full weight of what exactly was happening suddenly hit Evie like a ton of bricks, and her pace slowed with every stride. The voices from behind were growing stronger, and Evie turned to face the men, accepting her fate. She closed her eyes and let the tears of pain roll down her cheeks.
Just as the men were about to come into view, Evie felt her body lurch violent sideways as she tumbled into a ditch, along with a black mass. After what seemed like an age, she finally came to a spinning stop, landing on something fairly soft. The thing let out a low, pained groan. Almost immediately, it sat up and covered her mouth, and Evie went rigid with fear.
“I won't hurt you. Just keep quiet and they won't notice us.” it whispered in a male voice, barely loud enough to hear. Evie relaxed marginally before regaining her alert stance. Eyes wide, she looked up at the pinpricks against the velvet black as she listened to various grunts.
“She can't have gone far.” One man said. She recognised the voice as the man who dropped her leg in surprise. “She's only some worthless scum anyway. I don't see why we needed a whole wing of the squadron involved, we could have easily had two of us on the job.”
“You idiot! She took out one of us, and she did some dodgy shit with her mind or summat, 'cos I dunno how she got free. Plus she's got a pair of legs ...” another man retorted. “We'll have to go back. I'm bloody knackered now. Tell the boss she got away.”
“I'm with you on that, but he won't be happy in the slightest. Return to the head!” shouted the first man, and there were several popping sounds before an endless stretch of quiet.
Evie closed her eyes and exhaled heavily, feeling her pulse rate slowly return to normal. The person (or at least she thought it was a person; after appearing men with wooden sticks, nothing would surprise her now) next to her released his grip on her body and rolled onto his back, letting out a low whistle.
“That was close, wasn't it?” he asked excitedly, and Evie made out that he'd turned to face her. She raised an eyebrow and her jaw dropped.
“Close? Close?! We nearly died, whoever 'we' is! What the bloody hell is going on here?!” she hissed, feeling exhausted and struggling not to cry. She sniffed pointedly, and the man chuckled. Evie's mood worsened as she narrowed her eyes.
“I guess some stuff needs explaining to you.”
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