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 : )
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