Chapter 22 : Cleaving
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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.
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