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.
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