Chapter 21 : Knocked Down
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“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.
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