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Tempting Fate by FadingAntigone

Format: Novel
Chapters: 47
Word Count: 190,895
Status: WIP

Rating: 15+
Warnings: Contains profanity, Mild violence, Scenes of a mild sexual nature, Substance abuse, Sensitive topic/issue/theme

Genres: Drama, Romance, AU
Characters: Harry, McGonagall, Draco, OC
Pairings: Harry/Ginny, Ron/Hermione, Draco/OC, OC/OC, Other Pairing

First Published: 05/07/2017
Last Chapter: 01/23/2021
Last Updated: 01/23/2021

Summary:

For twin sisters, Evelyn and Elizabeth are very different. Everything from their morals to their memories diverge. When disaster strikes, the girls remove to Hogwarts to live under the guardianship of their Aunt Minerva. With this move comes a mystery that exposes their duality and determines their fate. 



Chapter 1: A Desperate Decision
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Evelyn and Elizabeth Castell sat side-by-side, matching dark circles swinging low under their eyes.

 

Their aunt was facing away from them, flicking her wand with stoic mindfulness. Books were moving from the shelf that she eyed, piling themselves neatly on her desk in two separate stacks.

 

"Will it hurt?" Evelyn repeated her question, waiting for her aunt to turn around. Minerva had always encouraged them to question, to be curious, and to be studious. But now—when they had finally found something that seemed to meet their needs—she could barely make eye contact with them. Since Evelyn had mentioned it over dinner two nights ago, her aunt had been quiet.

 

Elizabeth sat besides her sister, quietly studying her knuckles. Though it had been her idea, Elizabeth only seemed to be interested in this option as a way to protect herself. They had never been close, but Evelyn had noticed that her sister was more guarded than ever. Particularly since they had moved into their aunt's quarters at Hogwarts, Elizabeth had been quietly removing herself from daily moments. Evelyn wondered, in the moment that hung between her question and her aunt's reply, whether she felt motivated herself to pursue this option in an effort to soothe herself or to reconnect with her sister.

 

Yes, they'd never been close. But, now—now she needed Elizabeth. Elizabeth was the only one she had left.

 

"I don't know," Minerva sounded hoarse, "You would have to ask Professor Dumbledore. He would be the one," she paused, eyes following the book that was moving past her. She turned, her eyes following it to its resting place on the top of the pile. She still hadn't made eye contact with her nieces. "Are you sure? Both of you, are you sure?" It was then that her eyes moved to them, shifting quickly between the two of them as if she feared that she might miss even the smallest of reactions that could prove her assumption that they didn't want this, that they couldn't want this.

 

But, Evelyn was too stubborn and too determined. She had already made up her mind. She didn't want anything to do with it anymore. She wanted to be rid of the dreams, which had turned to nightmares, and the memories, which had turned to bogs. She hated the way she felt, and the feeling of powerlessness that weighed her down every day. Just walking the empty halls was difficult for her, and every day they moved closer to the beginning of term. Imagining herself navigating crowds of students, unfamiliar and critical, made her feel short of breath. She'd had a panic attack that morning when she'd been confronted with a friendly but inquisitive ghost.

 

"I can't start a new life here and be expected to carry this with me."

 

"Dear, that's life!" Exasperation broke from her aunt, her eyes wide with earnestness. "You must carry these things with you; they are a part of your life now."

 

Pain flashed across Evelyn's face, but the determination reigned supreme. "What's the point of being magical if I can't do this?"

 

Years later, a deep rose blush would spread across her cheeks when her aunt reminded her of this moment. It was true adolescent stubbornness born out of myoptic vision and desperation. But, right then, Minerva said nothing. Evelyn continued, flushing next to her sister, "Why can't you allow us to make this decision?"

 

"Us," Minerva's arms crossed across her chest, her gaze turning to Elizabeth. "Is there an us between the two of you now?"

 

Evelyn turned towards her twin sister, staring down her nose and pursing her lips. There was silence.

 

"We'll have everything taken from us? From that night?" Elizabeth asked, softly. "And we'll keep... What exactly?"

 

"Good memories." Evelyn snapped before her aunt could reply.

 

"Then I suppose we should."

 

"It's not easy to reverse. You may never be able to get it back, and it could dramatically alter your sense of self. Not to mention—"

 

"We know! And we've decided. This is the least you can do as our guardian," Evelyn interrupted. She sounded petulant and sad, and she hated even that about herself. Her voice was taxing. Minerva balked slightly, trying to keep her composure. Athena had always written of Elizabeth as the moody, aggressive teenager who had harsh words and stubborn habits. It had been Elizabeth that she fought with, and Elizabeth that she had struggled with. "George Lucas may have been on to something, Minerva," Athena had once written, "There is a dark side-as we both know—and I fear my Elizabeth is constantly battling it." That line had always stayed with Minerva as she had had to search through a stack of Muggle newspapers that were kept on file at the library to find a reference to George Lucas.

 

Her mind continued the tangent momentarily, drudging up other references that Athena had shared, and had to explain, after her move to the United States.

 

"Do you know what my brain just did?" Minerva asked after a long pause, her tangent coming back to meet her nieces, sitting in front of her, asking for something she was morally opposed. "It brought up a memory of your mother, so simple but wonderful and dear to me." Both girls looked up at her, their warm brown eyes dimming with separate yet equally complex emotions. "You realize that if I do this for you, that process—that function of memory and remembering—will be compromised. You might not have moments like that ever again. And, if you do, they may not be authentic. They'll be artificial, or orchestrated, by magic."

 

"Either you do this for me now, or I attempt it on my own when school begins, and we're able to practice magic without restrictions again."

 

"Evelyn, don't threaten me. It's not like you."

 

"None of this is like me! I'm not me—don't you get that? I want to be me again." Her voice cracked as her volume broke away from the deadpan she'd been using. "Plus, it will keep our secret safe."

 

Minerva paused, knowing that this was the most persuasive piece of the argument. This was the piece that Albus had focused on. "These are troubling times, Minerva, and you cannot regulate where the girls will be sorted or who they may befriend. Not all of the students can be trusted, and it may be wise to concede this point.... If only to keep them safe."

 

Keeping them safe was her most important duty as their guardian, and it was something she was only just beginning to understand. Her work had always required a level of awareness and concern for her students, but her nieces were a different matter. Her heart felt heavy, and her bones felt old.

 

"Alright," She breathed, uncrossing her arms and sinking back onto her heels. "I'll get Professor Dumbledore."

 


 

Author's Note: This story was originally published on Quizilla under my username there, Smidget016, and under the same title. Quizilla has since been taken down, and I have decided to revise and repost the story here. If you were a user on that site and came across my story there, I encourage you to reread as many changes will be made but the structure will be the same!

As you might guess, this story was written many, many moons ago... But I have fallen out of writing in recent years, and am trying to get back into the habit. I thought starting with the revising and reworking of a story that I had already completed may be helpful. So here I am, back again, with a new adapation of this old tale. I hope you enjoy. And please be forgiving if something seems wildly out of canon! I wrote this before the series was completed, before Pottermore was a thing, and, though I am attempting to keep close to canon, some things will not be changed and, thus, I've marked the story as AU.

 

I'm delighted HPFF is back, and will be posting new chapters soon! While it's been gone, I've used the time to write (and I've nearly hit chapter fifty!), revise, and outline the entire story. It'll be a total of 75 chapters, and I'm looking forward to bringing this world into full view for you! Stay tuned.

 

 



Chapter 2: After
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Some time later, Evelyn woke in her aunt’s apartment. Her Aunt Minerva had quarters in the castle, tucked away behind a portrait of a man and his cat. Evelyn knew her aunt often preferred to stay in the castle than in her home in the village, but as she looked around the room she found that she couldn't quite remember why. The small guest room that she shared with her sister felt slightly unfamiliar for some reason, as if she had woken from a long dream and she was trying to orient herself back to reality. The sensation was slightly uncanny, yet she wasn't alarmed.

 

A warm, happy feeling moved through her and it was the only sensation she had. Evelyn let go of her thoughts, instead raising her arms long over her head and then rolling her shoulder blades down her back. Sunshine played across the bedroom, toasting her toes under the light blankets that covered the single bed she occupied. She noticed her sister was absence and, given how quiet the quarters were, assumed her aunt was well. Yet, this did not perturb her.

 

She leaned over, pulling a book from the nightstand that stood between her bed and Elizabeth’s. She had begun Harper Lee's To Kill a Mocking Bird, a novel that she had read before, though she couldn't remember the last time she'd picked it up. At least once, she thought that one of her parents had read the book to her, her mother most likely, and, as if to confirm that feeling, a memory rose in her mind, pink at the edges with fondness and delight: her mother, sharing a twin bed with her, chiding, “Don’t be so quick to assume who may be right and who may be wrong,” after Evelyn had tried to guess the ending.

 

She read for a length of time, moving through several chapters, before the sound of feet could be heard in the apartment as the padded towards the bedroom door. A soft knocking followed, and the door opened without her having to answer. Even before looking up, she knew it could only be her aunt, and the intrusion was welcome. She dropped her book, smiling up at the figure in the doorway.

 

“Good morning, Evie,” Her aunt said, her lips thin and her eyes moving with sharpness over the scene. “I’m glad to see you’re awake. I have just finished preparing my courses for the next few weeks, and was thinking we might take advantage of the day. Where has your sister gone?”

 

“I’m not sure,” Evelyn muttered dreamily, closing her book and pulling herself upright in bed. She smiled at her aunt, “She was gone when I woke up.”

 

Minerva nodded curtly, an awkwardness coming over her as she tried to think of what was best to say next. “How're you feeling today?”

 

“Everything feels perfect.” She sighed happily, freeing her legs from the blankets and swinging them onto the floorboards. The coolness of the boards spread across her feet, making her smile more.

 

Her aunt raised an eyebrow. There was something unpalatable about Evelyn’s countenance. She had always been an engaging, sweet girl. But now—after—she was saccharine, too kind even for a good-natured niece on a sunny day. Minerva’s smile stretched at the corners of her mouth, tightening, and her lips stretched thinner.

 

“Well, why don’t we go onto the grounds in search of her? With weather like this, I imagine she isn’t in the castle.” Evelyn nodded her assent, moving towards her wardrobe.

 

She emerged from the room a few moments after her aunt, wearing a dress. Her outrageously curly hair had been reined in with a clip. It perched high on her head in a messy bun-like shape. For a brief moment as she moved, Minerva felt as though Evelyn might have settled into herself and the sweetness may have receded. However, when she looked at her niece full in the face, she knew it wasn't true. Something in her gaze was altered, and Minerva couldn't quite put her finger on it.

 

She tried to go about the situation as if it was a normal exchange. She motioned towards a bowl of fruit nearby, but Evelyn wasn’t hungry.

 

Yes, something was amiss, she thought. Her heart was beginning to hurt.

 

 

They walked through the castle halls, moving down staircases, past classroom doors, winding their way towards the Great Hall. She led Evelyn through the halls deftly, turning away from the doors that led into the Great Hall and moving out of doors, her summer cloak billowing behind her as she led them onto the great green expanse surrounding the school. All the while, they said nothing. Evelyn hummed quietly to herself, and Minerva thought. There wasn’t anything she could bring herself to say; she feared, and she felt neglectful. She wore those feelings like a shroud. Both could remember times when the conversation never dropped between them. Only Minerva recognized that time was before and this was after.

 

They wandered in silence for some time before seeing the shape of Elizabeth, sitting alone near the lake with her legs disappeared into the water. Her shoulder sloped down from her neck is a slow line, and her body looked heavy. Darkness seemed to collect around her, despite the sunshine. As the approached, Minerva and Evelyn's shadows draped across her form, adding to the image.

 

“Hello,” the first word spoke since they left Minerva's apartment came simultaneously from Minnie and Evie. Their tone was very different. Evelyn’s came out in a happy hum while Minerva’s slid out flat and monosyllabic.

 

Elizabeth seemed a stark contrast of Evelyn. The darkness Minerva had recognized was even weightier upon their approach, and she turned a set of mournful eyes up to her aunt and sister. Unhappiness radiated from her. Her whole body curled like a crescent moon away from them. She seemed close to teetering into the lake, her long blonde hair almost brushing the water’s surface.

 

“Are you feeling well, dear?”

 

“Not particularly,” Elizabeth muttered quietly, shifting her legs back and forth, sending ripples radiating outward. Minerva could see goosebumps on her niece's legs, and she wondered if the girls could still feel such sensations. (Some weren't able to after undergoing such a charm.) “I’m not sure what the matter is,” she sighed, volunteering, “Things feel disrupted.”

 

“Of course things are disrupted!” Evelyn moved to sit next to her sister, curling her feet under her and gesturing animatedly as she spoke. “We’re in a different country, and preparing to enter a different school! Doesn’t it feel excited, and new?” She smiled, leaning forward to nudge her shoulder against her sister’s.

 

A small, unrealistic smile fluttered across Elizabeth’s face, and she managed a nod. Their conversation continued, and Minerva observed, quietly seating herself against a nearby tree and saying nothing.  

 


 

“They only seem balanced when they’re together,” Minerva sighed, sipping at the firewhiskey Albus had poured for her. He was leaning back in his chair near the fire in his office. His face gave nothing away, and he did not interject. She continued, “Otherwise, they seem to grow disparate. Evelyn is increasingly bubbly and kind while Elizabeth is increasingly sullen and distant. I worry that if they aren’t sorted into the same house, they won’t be able to function among the other students. “And their classmates—there will be questions, which could compromise the integrity of the charm. The smallest of things could trigger the counter-charm, and then…”

 

“Then their memories will return. Minerva.”

 

A few beats of silence moved between them, and then Minerva's voice rose again, a different edge to it. “How did I agree to this? How did I allow this to happen?”

 

“We explained the side effects and the potential outcomes. They were informed; it was their idea. And, unfortunately, we were desperate. We were in an impossible position. We needed to protect them—and ourselves—from Voldemort. This was the method that was agreed to by all parties. Your regret is understandable, given that this side effect has presented itself.

 

“Some people who undergo the Obliviscatur Charm are fine, but it's still largely untested and it's effects unknown. This is the first time it’s been done on twins. It seems as though their memories and the sentiment attached to them have diverged and allotted themselves to each girl separately.”

 

“Their classmates will think they’re odd,” Minerva sighed, sipping again, “And anything may cause them to remember what has happened in the past few months. Their memories will crash down around them,” she looked down at her hands.

 

“And they risk losing their sanity.” Albus supplemented. “But Minerva, they agreed. We agreed. They wanted to protect you, and themselves.”

 

“They may be protecting their secret, but they aren’t protecting themselves.”

 

A silence stretched between them, and their shadows rose along the wall as the fire began to die. It needed more wood, but neither of them raised their wand to supply it.

 

“Albus, how long do you believe they have?”

 

 



Chapter 3: On Sisters
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By the time the school year was upon them, Evelyn and Elizabeth knew the castle completely. Their aunt was pleased that they would be able to navigate to their classes, noting that it would be easier for them to blend in when the students arrived.

 

Evelyn wasn't particularly self-aware, and hadn't noticed the evolution of her happiness or the way it seemed to expand exponentially as her sister continued to fold in on herself. Most evenings, when Evelyn climbed into bed, her cheeks hurt from smiling. She would drift off into rosy dreams; they were often memories of baking with her mother or chasing Elizabeth through the woods that sat behind their Maryland home when they had first moved and were still young. Each night, the memories were older and rosier. There were never many details.

Elizabeth, in contrast, tossed throughout the night, and each morning woke up discombobulated. Her dreams were the same as Evelyn’s, but cast in shadows. She looked paler each morning.

These nighttime memories hung about them through the day, creating auras. Their aunt had noticed that often the girls seemed disconnected, their eyes glazed over. They only seemed to pretend to listen, engaging in hesitant and confusing ways. Dumbledore was surprised at how quickly their condition was advancing, but he reassured Minerva that at this rate, the countercurse might announce itself within a few weeks. “In this case, it may be hoped that the spell hasn’t been in effect long enough for the process to cause real damage.”

She wasn’t sure what to hope for. She had written Demeter, her youngest sister—her only sister now—and was waiting to hear back. She assumed there would be fury, confusion, and perhaps even contempt. In her letter, she had included Dumbledore’s reflection that the other students’ arrival may balance out the emotional disparities. 

She found herself still reflecting on the letter as she herded the girls into chairs in Albus's office. They fluttered into their seats like birds, staring wide-eyed at the headmaster they had only interacted with a handful of times. The girls both felt the familiarity of Professor Dumbledore, but neither could remember the moment they first met. Evelyn smiled at him despite that inability.

“We felt that it would be wise to sort you before the other students arrive tomorrow. This will allow you to join your houses for dinner with the other students your age, and it won’t draw attention to your transfer.” Dumbledore looked over his spectacles at the girls, “I do not feel that I need to remind you of the importance of discretion and anonymity this school year.”

The girls nodded, vaguely aware of his meaning. It was as if their guts—or perhaps their souls—knew where Dumbledore had come from and what he was talking of, but their minds couldn’t connect the dots.

“We sort alphabetically. Come to the stool, Elizabeth.”

*

Elizabeth moved slowly, as if her bones ached. She lowered herself on to the stool with trepidation. The hat slipped over her eyes, and the voice sprung up in her head alongside her own thoughts.

It’s particularly dark in your mind, Elizabeth. Do you always keep such company?

Elizabeth wrinkled her nose, thinking her reply, I don’t think so, hat. It’s hard to tell though; it’s felt this way for some time. What does it tell you?

This? Tells me nothing. The hat was a little too delighted in it’s response. I can see past this artifice.

Artifice? What do you—?

Before Elizabeth could force the hat to explain, it announced Slytherian in a boom. The first thing Elizabeth saw when the hat came off her head was the look in her Aunt Minerva’s eyes. There in that familiar gaze mingled surprise and disappointment. It was something Elizabeth had never experienced from her aunt before. Her mother and her father, yes, but never her aunt. An icy feeling spread across her chest, and Elizabeth knew in a moment of clarity that something was amiss.

She vacated the stool, returning to her chair and looking briefly at Dumbledore. The man smiled knowingly, never blinking.

*

Evelyn moved onto the stool next, smiling as the hat was lowered on to her head.

So much like your sister, the voice erupted in her.

No one has ever said that before, Evelyn replied. Even in her mind, her tone was chipper.

You’ll recognize the similarities when the time comes, but the darkness here in your mind isn’t the same that is in your sister’s. It’s a grief, a—

Could you sort me? Evelyn interjected, a feeling in her stomach like a stone dropped into a bucket. I need a place.

Yes, you desire a place. In a movement. Somewhere where you can find justive. A space to grow, collaborate. You’ll be helpful in—

Gryffindor was said, and no one was surprised.

Later, Evelyn and Elizabeth lay in their beds in Minerva’s spare room. It was the last time they would share the room until December at least. They tempered each other, and the happiness that was constantly oozing from Evelyn seemed offset for a moment. They both felt balanced in that space, quietly thinking through the sorting they had just experienced. Evelyn wasn’t surprised that they had been placed in different houses, but she wasn’t sure if she needed to feel anything beyond that.

“Elizabeth?” She turned on her side, looking into the dusky darkness that was filling the room. The late summer sun clung to the horizon, but with every slipping ray the day drew closer to its end.

“Yeah?”

“Do you think it’s a big deal? That we were placed in separate houses?”

“I can’t tell yet… Based on what Aunt Minerva said, it seems like there may be some animosity between the two houses. But,” A moment of silence sat between them. “It wouldn’t be too different than home.”

Evelyn wrinkled her nose, her brain struggling to compute the statement. In the dark, her vision seemed to flicker momentarily and a cracking pain radiated from her temple. She groaned slightly, and Elizabeth looked at her. She must have felt the same pain, but before she could articulate anything, Evelyn interjected, “There must be a storm moving in. I think I may be getting a migraine.”

Elizabeth’s mouth snapped shut, and Evelyn noticed. But she chose not to say anything more.

An unknown feeling rose in her gut and she rolled onto her back, shifting her gaze to the ceiling. When she tried to connect her mind to this feeling in her gut, there was only murkiness. The rosy glow of her memories became shadowy, like a dark fog rolled across her mindscape. It was an achingly clear visual.

The idea of this space inside of her that was the border between sun and shadow hung with her throughout the day. Even as she moved into her new dorm room, learned the names of her roommates—Hermione, Lavender, Parvati—and put on her robes, a red and gold patch emblazon on the breast, the image was there, lurking just between the thoughts that occupied and distracted her.

That evening, Evelyn and Elizabeth found themselves seated in the Great Hall alone. They looked at each other across the expanse, and to each it felt like a sea. She thought she was beginning to understand that unnameable feeling in her gut; it was closest to foreboding. She shifted uncomfortably on the bench, and tried to push it down.

Quite suddenly, the other students began to arrive and the feeling was replaced by a warm, rosy gladness. She felt only excitement.

Luckily, no one seemed to notice that she was already seated at the table. Students in robes that matched hers began to fill the benches around her. Many were engaged in conversation, and didn’t seem to notice an abnormally early student at the table. Bodies moved in around her, and all of a sudden she seemed to be in the midst of a community. The hum of people her age, reconnecting with one another after months of separation, filled her ears. All of the bodies occupying this space raised the temperature of the room; it was suddenly cozier. She felt that this was how the castle was always supposed to be. All summer, the hallways and rooms had been waiting for students. It felt different now.

She smiled, keeping to herself. She could remember a time when she was the center of a conversation, her friends wrapped around her, listening intently and sharing. The memory made her smile; she didn’t seem to remember the break that had severed her friends from her or the fact that she now sat on a bench, alone, on another continent.

In fact, there was one person who noticed the way her face had moved from foreboding dread to excitement to seeming euphoria. The unnatural contortions of her niece’s face were hard for Minerva to draw her eyes away from. When she did look away from Evelyn, it was only to observe Elizabeth, whose face mirrored those sublime shifts—only in different tones of depression, skepticism, and general dissatisfaction.

 

 



Chapter 4: Observers and Observations
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“What do you think of the new girl?” 

Girls,” Hermione corrected, taking a small bite from a piece of toast that she had just finished jamming. She carefully leaned the knife against the furthest side of her plate, moving with steady intention. 

“What?” Ron said, distracted by her small, purposeful movements. Ever since the trio had reunited over the summer, Harry had noticed that Hermione’s movements more often than not distracted Ron. He could sense the shift that had come, perhaps during their months of separation, but Ron had not mentioned anything to him. Perhaps if it had been a different year, Harry may have inquired or teased. Not this year, this year was different. 

“Girls, Ronald,” Hermione looked up at him momentarily, “There are two of them.” She took another bite, and a pause lingered between them, Ron still looking at her but not picking up the threads of the conversation. Harry minded his eggs, waiting for Hermione to continue. She did, “The Castell sisters, Evelyn is in our house and her sister is not. I’m sure you’ve noticed Elizabeth in our classes with the Slytherians.” 

“Well, yes, of course,” Ron finally, “I did notice that there was more than one of them. I would just rather not discuss the Slytherians if I can help it.” He huffed a little at the end, breathing in deeply before shoving a spoonful of eggs into his mouth. 

“Well, Elizabeth does seem fine so far. She may not be wholly lumped in with the other lot just yet.” Hermione reasoned, crinkling her nose a little as Ron tried to start a sentence before swallowing. She promptly cut him off, “Evelyn seems fine as well. She seems to be quite happy to be here, though to be honest I haven’t seen much of her. She’s always the first one up in the morning and the last to bed.” Her sentence trailed off, as she seemed to be working through something in her head. She didn’t pick it up again, leaving her unfinished thought hanging between them.

Harry nodded, looking from Hermione to Ron. He had never heard of transfers coming to Hogwarts before and had tried to ask Professor Dumbledore why new sixth years had suddenly appeared at the school during what seemed to be a most importune time, but the Headmaster had not conceded any information that hadn’t already circled through the common room and the rest of the school. They were Professor McGonagall’s nieces, and there had been special exceptions made for them to join the school. They had transferred from an American magical academy whose name was largely unrecognizable. Perhaps, most importantly, Dumbledore added that the girls had been vetted by the Order before being offered enrollment. 

“Dumbledore seems to trust them, the Order as well.” Harry sighed, unsure if that was enough to make him feel comfortable anymore. He wouldn’t allow himself to be in a position of gullibility, no matter the situation, after what had happened to Sirius. “But there seems to be something amiss. When I introduced myself to Evelyn the other day, she had the strangest look about her.” 

“And she’s unbearably happy. Hermione didn’t modify that bit of her description quite as aggressively as she should have.” Ron rolled his eyes a little, “She thanked a bloody first year the other day after they knocked pumpkin juice all over her bag.” 

“She did not,” Hermione’s rationed tone cut in, “Who would do that?” 

“She did! I swear it,” Ron chuckled a little, “She seems a little tossed if you ask me.” 

Harry studied Ron, shrugging his shoulders and running his hand through his hair. His eyes drifted back to Hermione, who looked into her teacup with a quiet about her that was countered only by the flashing behind her eyes. He could tell her mind was moving quickly, trying to piece something together. She'd had the same look about her when they were in second year, close to discovering the Chamber of Secrets. He knew that if he asked her what she was thinking, she wouldn’t tell him. And, to be honest, he wasn’t looking to continue the conversation at that moment. 

Though the mysterious air surrounding the transfer students had interested him, he couldn’t allow himself to get distracted. He needed to focus on preparing for battle; it was the only thing he had left now, and he intended to survive. 



Evelyn and Elizabeth Castell moved to and from their classes with a similar aura of unaffected calm, though one carried happiness with her while the other carried depression. They were admittedly most balanced when they were together, their moods setting into one another like ying and yang. For this reason, they seemed pulled towards one another, often sharing tables in their overlapping classes. It was an unspoken pull, which neither girl wanted to acknowledge because it seemed to speak to something larger than they could understand. 

The effects of each other’s company would last for a few hours after they had separated, but by the time they had woken in their respective dorms, there was pallor over one and brightness over the other. Minerva noticed this cycle immediately, and brought it to Dumbledore’s attention. Albus had just nodded ever so slightly as she had described the condition, conceding that it was indeed worsening. The other students did not seem to have much of an impact on them as he had hoped. He had asked her to allow him some time to think over what may be the best course of action, and she had agreed. 

In the meantime, she had heard from Demeter, who was indeed furious. She had written to ask if she could come see the girls, but Minerva felt that her showing up at the school just then may cause a lot of disruption and may draw attention to them as well. They had come to the agreement that she would visit at the first Hogsmeade trip of the year, as that would be the least conspicuous time. 

Demeter's letter had ended with a sentence that seemed to run on forever: “I still cannot come to terms with the idea that you have done this to our nieces, and it seems that I may not be able to until I see them for myself—though given your description of their behavior, I wonder if I will even recognize them, let alone them me—it’s unnerving to write this sentence and the whole time wonder what may be ahead for them, and how this may affect their course particularly considering all that has transpired in just a short span of time, all of which I’m sure they’ve yet to fully process and which was so rudely taken from them by adults who conceded too easily (and by adults, I mean both you and Albus, who I am also furious with and who I expected more from; though I understand his motivation in keeping them safe, particularly given the current atmosphere, I cannot imagine that effectively disarming them by removing their memories has improved their safety; I just wish I had been consulted beforehand, and—to be completely honest, Minnie, I’m upset I didn’t hear from at least one of the girls, Evelyn in particular). 

It was an impressive feat to have carried on like that, and Minerva felt deeply how upset Demeter must have been. Her sister had been writing for The Daily Prophet for nearly twelve years, and she took very seriously all aspects of the written language. Her grammar was typically impeccable and she only seemed to stray from it when truly frazzled. She hadn’t even edited the letter before attaching it to her owl, it seemed, as the letter arrived without marks (another testament to her quickness, as Demeter almost always gave her letters a second read and marked changes or added bits for clarification). 

Fragments of her sister’s letter would play through her head as she watched the girls in these strange states move among the student body at meal time, which was when she had the best opportunity to observe them. Meals had always been reserved for quiet observation. Minerva had often strayed from conversations with her colleagues to look out into the student body and get a sense of whom they were. It improved her teaching; it cleared her mind. But this year, so far, she could only look at her nieces and feel a deep sense of disappointment. They had convinced her that this what they wanted, and she knew—too late—that they were wrong. 



Evelyn discovered that she was often alone as she moved from class to class, but this didn’t seem to bother her. She smiled down at the stones as her feet moved over them, feeling a sense of satisfaction that she learned the castle so well before the semester had started. It made so many things easier. 

She made it to Potions a little earlier than she had expected, and settled her books next to the cauldron she had been assigned. The room was darker than the hallway had been, and her eyes took a moment to adjust. 

“Hey,” someone muttered close by. She hadn’t noticed anyone else in the classroom. She turned to her left and discovered Harry Potter, a fellow housemate that she had only interacted with briefly in the last week or so of classes. He seemed generally aloof and was often with Hermione Granger and Ron Weasley, both of whom seemed equally nice. Hermione slept in the bed beside hers, and had offered to help her with any classes that seemed wildly out of line with the studies Evelyn had left behind in the states. In fact, Hermione had offered again only last night and Evelyn was starting to think it maybe a good idea to take her up on the offer. 

All of these thoughts raced through her mind in the moment in between his salutation and hers. “How’re you today, Harry?” 

“Alright,” he grumbled a little, not yet setting his books down. He eyed her tentatively. They had not been assigned to the same table, but he knew that if he switched to be beside her, Slughorn wouldn’t mind. The new professor was so enamored with him, he felt as though he could request even the largest of favors and it would be granted. He placed his tattered copy of the text beside hers. He wasn’t quite sure why he felt compelled to move his place; he had been placed next to Ron previously, but he assumed that Ron wouldn’t mind sharing with Hermione, who could move into Harry’s spot and away from Lavender Brown. “How are you?” 

“Very well, I think,” she replied softly. The minutes seemed to be moving slowly past them. 

“You think?” 

“Yes,” she trailed off, a strangeness lingering over her features and in her tone. She turned to Harry, studying him slowly. Her brown eyes seemed to be searching for something. For the first time in his knowing her, the smile on her face faltered. “I feel as though there is something I was meant to tell you,” She said softly. Her voice seemed a little dreamy, far off even. He was reminded of Luna, except that her tone was different. 

“Did Hermione ask you to tell me something?” Harry assumed that could have been the only person who would have given her any information bound for him, though it didn’t quite make sense as he had almost every class with her and she wouldn’t have needed to send a message with Evelyn—not to mention the fact that the two girls barely knew one another. 

“No, it wasn’t Hermione. No, he told me—” Evelyn inhaled sharply and suddenly, her sentence ending. Her hand shot to her side, and her face screwed up. 

And then just as suddenly as it had arrived it all passed. Other students began to file into the classroom, and the whole air of the room changed. Neither had noticed how heavy the space had felt before it changed; with the newly arrived students seemed to come more oxygen. Harry continued to study Evelyn as her body transformed back into its more upright posture and delightful countenance, the familiar smile sweeping across her face. He had hoped she might finish her thought, to give him a sense of who the he she was referring to was—particularly because he knew many he’s who weren’t to be trusted. 

Evelyn didn’t continue the conversation, however she could feel Harry studying her throughout the rest of the class. She didn’t mind him looking at her; in fact, her mind moved back and forth between a feeling of self-consciousness and a feeling of self-confidence. She wondered what he thought of her, and what he was thinking since the conversation between them had ended. But she didn’t think on the conversation, she couldn’t. It was as though a small piece of the memory had wedged itself back into her mind, and, like a sturdy defense mechanism, her mind had swept it away when the pain began. The thought left her completely, and the conversation felt surreal. 

Instead of remembering, she just smiled to herself, listening to Professor Slughorn ramble through a lecture and following his instructions with a blind smile. Eventually, she forgot that Harry was observing her, thoughtfully and diligently as they moved about the room and completed their assignment. 

But Harry didn’t forget. He barely looked away. 



He stared at her from across the common room, studying the side of her face, the length of her neck. Her head seemed to move as a bird’s, changing angles ever so suddenly as she stared into the fire. Her feet were tucked beneath her and her arms were folded across her chest. The bag she carried between classes sat at the foot of the couch, untouched. She had been sitting there for quiet some time. 

They were the last two in the room. Everyone else had gone to bed, and in the firelight he could tell she was tired. There was tightness around her eyes and her mouth. She seemed somewhat disconnected, somewhat sad. 

He wasn’t sure why he felt compelled to study her. She was beautiful, but no more beautiful than the other girls in the house. He continued to look at her despite himself, and continued to wonder about her. Since her arrival, she had had few conversations with her housemates or her classmates. Even when she was with her sister, she did not seem to talk much. In fact, he would have bet she didn’t want to converse with anyone. Instead, she seemed to move around them, orbiting them all, like a planet circling a distant star. 

He knew nothing about her, which surprisingly angered him. 

Elizabeth still hadn’t moved by the time he withdrew his eyes long enough to finish his essay and pack away his belongings. He had no reason to linger there any longer, but nevertheless he waited to see if she might move; he had no reason to observe her any long, but nevertheless he waited to see if she might reveal something—an emotion, a thought. 

Nothing happened. 

“Good night, Elizabeth,” he called across the room. 

She seemed startled, looking at him only briefly before turning her eyes back to the fire. “Good night, Draco,” her voice spread thin across the room, soft.



Chapter 5: Minerva and Demeter
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September passed quickly, and the Castell sisters seemed to move through their days and weeks without noticing their observers. They made acquaintances, but no real friends. They studied, but didn’t seem to learn. They floated through their daily experiences without any tangible ties to earth, feeling only extreme emotions while sleeping little and eating almost nothing. By the time the first Hogsmeade trip arrived, the girls were hollow-eyed and waning. 

Demeter noticed the girls immediately when she arrived to the Great Hall with Minerva. Sitting on opposite sides of the room, they share an energy that drew Demeter’s attention immediately. They seemed to represent maniac depression more sincerely than individuals Demeter knew to actually suffer from the chemical imbalance. 

Minerva gestured to the table at the head of the hall, and Demeter tore her eyes from the girls. She had arrived only a moment ago through floo, and had to dust herself off before she took a seat amongst the professors. Demeter was in her early thirties, only an inch shorter than her sister with the same sharp eyes. Her hair fell freely down the length of her back, her travel cloak covered in stray hairs that had been shed over the many months in which she had traveled across the United Kingdom, tracking the rising disappearances of Muggles. Her fingers were habitually smudged with ink, which she never seemed able to get off, and the bag she set down next to her chair was cluttered with quills, parchment scraps, Muggle pens, and a few recording devices. It was her habit to move between her reporting and her life fluidly so that she rarely had to choose between work and leisure. She talked quickly and often, and her boss liked to catch up with her because she always seemed to be a beat ahead in her thinking and talking. 

When she arrived, Minerva busied her with conversation about her recent stories and hassled her about her safety, taking on the mothering role that she had occupied since their own mother had died twenty years ago. Their mother had long outlived their father, but as the youngest of three girls Demeter was too young to be left alone. She had not yet entered Hogwarts at the time, and had moved into Minerva’s apartments as Athena was still recently married and living in London. It hadn’t seemed practical for her to move there, particularly since Athena and Ian had only just had Evelyn and Elizabeth. 

Minerva didn’t always feel secure about the projects Demeter took on, but had been forced to accept it as Demeter again and again took on the most dangerous and far-flung assignments that seemed to be offered her. Her work was often a point of debate at family meals and other gatherings, and her nieces had often been incredibly curious about her work, especially since the communities and methods of British wizards and witches were seemingly radically different than those on the other side of the pond. 

Today, however, the girls didn’t even seem to notice the arrival of their other aunt—let along much else. They seemed to be missing something; there simply wasn’t any other way to summarize the differences she was seeing in her nieces. She could tell, even from this distance, that there had been something extinguished in them. She would have anticipated such a change regardless of what had happened, given what they’d been through, but this seemed worse. 

“We have to talk,” she hissed to her sister. Minerva nodded looking at her out of the side of her eye. 

“As soon as the other students depart.” 

“They’re not going?” 

“I haven’t signed their releases,” Minerva sighed, “I don’t think they’re safe among the other students. It’s impossible to tell—” 

“What might set them off,” Demeter interjected. Minerva didn’t make any sound, but she could tell by the way her sister’s jaw tightened that she was right. 

Almost an hour later, the two sisters sat in Minerva’s living room, chairs pulled close to the fire and cups of tea steaming in their hands. They had busied themselves with brief conversations with Minerva’s colleagues before coming here to make tea. It was only now that they sat looking at one another that they realized they would actually have to have the conversation. 

Demeter sighed, looking at her sister through the steam that rose from her cup. It was too hot to drink, but she brought it to her lips and blew softly over it in a futile attempt to cool it down. She was bad at drinking tea; she would immediately burn herself by trying to drink it too quickly and then wait too long to let it cool and it would be cold. She could never find the right moment to drink it. She could remember Evelyn sympathizing with her. As a mostly-American, having spent the last ten years of her life stateside, she had no idea how to drink tea. The two had laughed about the awkwardness of the pseudo-ceremony, especially as Evelyn really only had to engage in tea drinking when they would visit their father or their aunts. Though they came at least once a year, she still hadn’t mastered the process. Demeter sighed again as she remembered the way Evelyn’s face had lit up when she realized they shared this struggle. Her face hadn’t moved with that kind of animation the whole time she observed her that morning. In fact, Demeter still wasn’t sure the girls had even noticed her presence. 

“The girls seem completely unattached to reality.” Demeter said, blunt as ever. 

Minerva looked a little nervous under the gaze of her sister. Demeter could feel the guilt radiating from her. “I know,” she admitted softly, “Even Albus was surprised at how quickly the side effects presented themselves. He didn’t think—“ 

“It’s obvious to me that neither of you thought.” Demeter interjected. She immediately regretted the statement when her sister’s eyes surged with guilt. Her mouth snapped shut, and Demeter sighed, “I’m sorry, Minnie. I really am. I didn’t mean to judge so hastily. I know you were trying to pacify them, but I still cannot believe this was where you settled. There is so little known about the long-term impact of the Obliviscatur Charm, and its reversal has in many cases led to insanity. Just last year a witch died at Mungo’s because the onslaught of memories was too burdensome for her; they said her heart simply failed.” 


“I thought I was supposed to be the one with facts and logic,” Minerva looked deflated, looking older than she was. 

“I did some research after your initial letter.” Demeter shrugged, noticing the tension in her shoulders. “If I was going to be outraged, I wanted to be rightfully so.” 

Minerva smiled softly, looking into her teacup to avoid her sister’s gaze. “You have every right to be angry; I shouldn’t have allowed them to act this way. I was rash.” She paused a moment before adding, “They were so angry and sad. I tried to explain to them that these emotions were simply something they had to live with, but they were equally concerned with concealing the prophecy.” 

Demeter nodded, “That’s the actual sticking point, isn’t it? That’s the argument that won out. I’m sure they hadn’t even thought of that until one of them blurted it out and they both just ran with it.” Keeping the prophecy secret was the best argument for erasing their short-term memories. It would prevent anyone from torturing it out of them, as they simply couldn’t bring themselves to remember the prophecy without severe pain. 

There was little known about the Obliviscatur Charm other than that it was a variation of the oblivate charm. Instead of entirely erasing memories, however, it tucked them deeply into the subconscious, hiding them from the person. The charm was notoriously difficult to cast, and—worse still—was not known to be reliable. Memory groups were difficult to target specifically. And, like amnesia, the memories could be brought back through various triggers. In fact, most witches and wizards who had fell victim to the charm had been told to go back to their last memory and try to move through their lives the way they had before, to act normal. These everyday habitual tasks could jog the memory, slowly eroding the effects of the charm. However, with the return of the memories, there was great physical pain. It was the side effect that was most recognizable of the charm, and the one that everyone who suffered from the charm seemed to have. The other side effects varied. Some people were completely themselves whereas others were completely different. Some became more extreme versions of themselves; for example, there had been a woman in one case study that Demeter read that had been a very private person prior to the charm and a very outgoing person afterwards. Some were angrier, rasher, even disturbed. As side effects went, the girls actually seemed to have ones that weren’t too horrible—though it was obvious that they weren’t eating or sleeping much. This concerned Demeter, but the emotional effects wouldn’t have been so terrible if they weren’t students. If they were simply living in the world, the change to their behavior may not have been noticed at all. But here, at school, among their peers—it would be impossible for them to make friends, to fit in, or to even move through a crowd without people noticing them. The other students seemed confused by their behavior, and Demeter wasn’t surprised. If she had been a student right then, she would have thought these new transfer girls were weird. With the rise of Voldemort, she would have perhaps thought them suspicious. 

“This won’t end well, will it?” 

Minerva shook her head, “I think we have to jog their memories.” 

The tea sloshed around Demeter’s cup as her hand moved too quickly. “What?” 

“I’ve spoken with Albus about it. He seems to think that the charm hasn’t been placed long enough for them to be in any real danger. And,” she looked at Demeter, “I think they are in more danger if they keep moving through the school in this way. They need to make friends and blend in. We can figure out another way to keep them safe. We don’t even know if the prophecy is important enough, the references haven’t even been verified yet!” 

“After the attacks, I didn’t think we needed to verify it! I would think that if Athena were here, she would agree!” 

Minerva was a bit taken aback, but she shook her head. “You’re right, but I’m right too. They must remember. They must come to terms with the ways in which their lives have changed, and they must see how they fit into this new world. It’s not about survival in the short-term. It’s about survival in the long-term.” 

“And triggering their memories is the only way?” 

“Yes, there is no other way to bring them back.” 

“And you think they will survive it?” 

Minerva nodded, her lips pursing in stoic determination. During her time at Hogwarts, Demeter had always been one for mischief. She had worked many pranks alongside Nymphadora Tonks. But she had never anticipated doing something like this—akin to a prank but not quite—with Minerva. (Athena perhaps, but never Minerva.) She looked at her sister, sipping her tea that was decidedly cold before saying, “What’s the plan then?” 



Chapter 6: Dueling Stances
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“Today, we will be practicing dueling. You will use the defensive spells we have recently learned, and attempt to demonstrate mastery,” Professor Snape paused, looking at the Gryffindor and Slytherian students, his eyes briefly settling on Harry Potter before adding, “Or at the very least proficiency.” 

Evelyn smiled as she looked around the room. Students were slowly pairing off, mostly Gryffindors with Gryffindors and Slytherians with Slytherians. She moved towards her sister, who had seemingly assumed they would defy the norm and pair for the dueling exercise. Evelyn had always enjoyed her combat training at the Academy. 

“Partners?” She said to her sister as she reached her, despite the fact that it seemed as though everyone else had been paired. 

“Sure,” Elizabeth paused, looking at the other students as they moved apart and took formal dueling stances, “I’m not sure we’d work well with other students in this area anyway.” 

Evelyn followed her gaze, watching as Harry Potter and Ron Weasley began to volley back and forth, interested and practical but not intense. Her eyebrows quirk up involuntarily, and she nodded, “Yes, this feels a little different than what we may be used to.” 

“Should we follow their lead?” 

They exchanged an identical smirk—no, of course not, they seemed to be saying to one another. Evelyn and Elizabeth turned their backs to one another and drew their wands. 

“Count us off?” Elizabeth asked, her voice sounding far away. 

Evelyn counted out the numbers as she had done so many times before. She smiled at the familiarity, excited by the prospect of three. When the number rolled off her tongue, her body acted instinctually. She felt herself move quickly from Elizabeth, casting a disarming spell simultaneously with her turn. 

“You always go right!” Her sister jeered. Evelyn’s spell had missed her entirely as she had moved left to avoid it. She immediately cast one of the defensive spells that they had been studying, but Evelyn deflected it, still smiling. Their wands began to move more quickly, and Evelyn could feel herself really getting into the movement. She had missed her combat course; it had been a daily exercise at the Academy, and she hadn’t quite realized it was gone until this moment. 

As their pace quickened, she began to move about more, side-stepping her classmates who were working alongside her as she attempted to find new angles that provided her an advantage over Elizabeth. Her sister had always been a confident dueler; even in their first years at the Academy, she had always been poised. She moved her wand like an overstylized artist moving a paintbrush, making short sweeping motions with outstretched arms. She didn’t spend a lot of energy jumping or ducking; instead, she seemed to have mastered intuition. Evelyn had envied her sister’s ability to seemingly predict her opponents’ next move. 

Evelyn on the other hand liked to move. When they had first started studying, she had resisted the impulse—especially because Elizabeth was contrastedly poised—but over the years her professors had encouraged her to follow her body, and she had become increasingly comfortable on her feet. It was an athletic endeavor in her opinion, and it came naturally to her. She enjoyed the adrenaline rush. 

She smiled as she took a few quick steps away from Elizabeth, who crinkled her nose a little as she tried to read her sister’s movements. Evelyn sent one of the newly learned defensive spells towards Elizabeth, but she deflected it with an artistic swipe. 

They both paused, trying to decide who would make the offensive move and who would make the defensive move. It was a breath in battle—Evelyn smiled, remembering her professor last year urging them to be comfortable with pace. “It won’t always be urgent, urgent, urgent! There will be slow moments, moments that are awkward. Use them to your advantage!” This was one such moment, and Evelyn continued to smile as she took the first move. She propelled her body forward, faking to the right to draw Elizabeth’s spell before throwing herself towards her sister and thrusting her wand into Elizabeth’s chest. Her smile widened as Elizabeth raised her arms, eyeing her with a humorous frustration. 

They hadn’t partnered together to practice dueling in the last year or two at the Academy, though they nearly always had class together. Evelyn suddenly wondered to herself why that might have been, unable to remember as she studied her sister’s face. There was something there that she didn’t understand, but on the surface remained light frustration and a small smile. Both of their chests were heaving as Evelyn withdrew her wand. They shook hands, as they had always been instructed to do at the Academy. 

It was only after they had released each other’s hands that they realized the classroom was still. They had had an audience. 



“How did you learn to duel like that?” 

Evelyn had only taken a few steps down the hall before she had been overtaken by Harry, who blurted out his question with such eagerness that she was a little taken aback. 

“At school, of course.” 

“Your school? In America?” 

Her brow wrinkled slightly, but she nodded and smiled, “Yes—the Academy.” She adjusted her books in her arms, noticing that Harry had matched his pace with hers. They each had Herbology next, so they continued down the stairs and towards the entrance hall. “Its in Washington, D.C.” 

“I’ve never heard of it before.” 

“You wouldn’t have. It’s not talked of the way Ilvermorny is because it’s not accessible to many students. Most of the students’ parents work for the Wizarding branchs of government that remained in Williamsburg or were ambassadors—but some were also important Muggles who worked for Congress or the NSC, it just depended.” 

“So your parents must have worked for the government then?” 

A blaze flashed behind Evelyn’s eyes, which didn’t go unnoticed by Harry. She paused a moment, the happy bounce of her former replies lost. “Yes,” she looked at the books in her hands, “My mother was a British Ambassador working with US wizards to promote peaceful relations with Muggles.” 

Harry was impressed, and looked so. “That sounds like interesting work—and explains why you grew up over there. I’d been wondering.” He admitted somewhat sheepishly. “What about your father?” He was being candid, and looked into her face earnestly as he followed her onto the grounds. 

“He was an auror, here, actually.” She looked back into Harry’s face, matching his earnestness. He could tell that she had anticipated his confusion. “My parents were divorced.” 

She could tell that Harry felt a little awkward, but she smiled warmly. It seemed like the first genuine smile that had crossed her face since he had known her—though she had smiled often when dueling her sister, and that had been genuine enthusiasm, this was somehow different. “It’s okay,” She continued, “They had been separated for so long it was practically normal. I don’t even remember a time when my father lived with us.” 

From the look on Harry’s face, she could tell there was something akin to empathy there. It felt like an odd moment to her—to share empathy, to pass that feeling back and forth. She hadn’t realized until that moment that this had been missing from her interactions… If she could call them interactions, she thought to herself. It dawned on her, quite suddenly, that she hadn’t really had a conversation with anyone since school had begun. 

Despite the revealing look on his face, Harry didn’t know quite how to respond. He eventually settled on, “I can understand that.” 

She nodded, knowing as so many did his story, and chosing to turn the conversation slightly. She wanted to move back to the original topic, “I’ve been practicing dueling since I started at the Academy when I was ten. We had daily combat classes where we studied different methods, cultures, and applications. I liked it,” She paused, smiling that genuine smile again. It looked nice on her face, Harry thought to himself. “I miss it. It was very different than Professor Snape’s approach.” 

Harry smiled then, too, looking at her, “I’m not sure I can offer unbiased comments on Snape’s approach.” 

It was then that they arrived at the greenhouse. At some point, Hermione and Ron must have passed them as they were already waiting inside, throwing expectant looks at Harry. Professor Sprout was at the front of the class, readying a few last pieces of equipment for the day’s lesson. She looked as though she was about to begin any moment. 

“Evelyn?” He looked at her as they approach the door, knowing they would move apart from one another to their assigned stations in the greenhouse. She looked at him, her face still open and earnest. She looked so different at that moment. “If you have the time, do you think, you might practice dueling with me?” 



“How did you learn to duel like that?” 

“At school, obviously,” Elizabeth exhaled her words with a hint of irritation. Where else could she have possible learned to duel? Bible camp? She kept the sarcasm to herself, looking at Draco Malfoy out of the corner of her eye. His long legs shortened their steps to make pace with her as they moved back towards the common room for their free period. 

“Yes, but,” He seemed almost flustered, which felt unusual. She didn’t know him very well, but she could tell that flustered wasn’t an emotion that came to him frequently. His pale throat flushed a little. “You’re technique seems much more advanced. Perhaps more advanced than some of the seventh years here.” 

“Was that a compliment?” She finally turned her head slightly to look at him. The conversation paused as he gave the password, and they entered the common room. There were a few students about, but there was plent of space on the sofa near the fireplace, where Elizabeth habitually resided. She moved there now, and he continued to follow her despite the lack of invitation. 

“How long have you been developing your technique?” 

“Why are you so curious?” 

He eyed the room for a moment, seating himself next to her and leaning in, “I’m not the only one who will be curious.” 

He leaned back, placing his arm along the back of the couch and relaxing into the cushions. His face suggested everything she needed to know. She eyes him, her own curiousity bubbling up inside of her. 

“I thought, perhaps, those were just rumors.” 

“Well, you can’t believe everything you hear,” His mouth quirked up along the sides, instantly looking more confident. She looked him fully in the face for perhaps the first time. His features were angular, but not unappealing. His eyes were cold, but alive with intellect and arrogance. His hair was pushed back, away from his face, smooth and almost white. He was so unusual looking that it was almost appealing. “But you can believe some of it.” 

Elizabeth cocked her head to the side a little. She always wore a poker face, and she knew he would never know what she was thinking. She had honed that—alongside her dueling skills—since she had entered the Academy. 

“Tell me more.”

 

 



Chapter 7: Something Wasn't Right
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“My professors encouraged my interests and my strengths,” she said, her voice quiet and her body open to him. She was conversational in a way that seemed opposed to her usual postures. “I think that was the biggest strength in my education. They told me that if my body wanted to move, I should learn to move with it—and that if I instinctually felt the need to do something, it would do more harm to stop myself from doing it than to do it.” 

“Which is why you move so much, and why your sister didn’t move at all?” 

“Yes, exactly,” she smiled, more to herself than to him, “We’re very different people, and they taught us to recognize that.” 

“It looked as if you’d been taught in completely different traditions of dueling,” Harry commented. He seemed genuinely curious, which made Evelyn feel more open. 

“In some ways we were,” she grew thoughtful for a moment before preceding, “Though we had the same teachers and took the same classes. Ellie was interested in differently methodologies than I was, and we were able to pursue our interests and apply them to combat. 

”One of my favorite traditions to study was the Ancient Greeks, whereas Ellie was more interested in the Victorians. I think that comes through in our styles.” 

Harry’s mouth dropped open a bit, and his eyes squinted at her curiously. He seemed to be searching for the right words. “Really?” 

Evelyn nodded, smiling. They were seated in the common room near the fire, and most of the other students had gone to bed. She often sat here well into the night, unable to close her eyes and using that listless energy to work ahead on various assignments. Harry had been working at a nearby table with Hermione and Ron, and when the other two had gone off to bed, he had told them he would see them later—and had come over to ask Evelyn when she might be available to meet this week to practice dueling. 

When she had said yes to him, she had thought that he might forget and nothing would come from it. But when he approached her that evening, there was determination sitting plainly on his face. She knew then that he had been quite serious, and even though they weren’t much more than acquaintances, he had every intention of dueling with her. They had slipped into conversation easily, and eventually he had come round from the back of the sofa to sit next to her. It had been a long time since she had enjoyed a casual conversation with someone; it felt nice.

“I don’t know anything about the Greeks or the Victorians, or anyone in between,” Harry admitted, cocking his chin towards her as he studied her face in the firelight. "I've never thought much of differently styles or methods. They've just taught us to duel—I supposed I didn't think beyond that."

“Well, the Greeks were fascinating to me because of their focus on Transfiguration.” Evelyn leaned forward a little, the way she always did when she was excited to discuss something. “You can see the impact wizards and witches had on the culture at that time in their mythology. The gods and goddesses are always transforming someone into something, and as a tactic that fascinated me.” 

“What do you mean?” 

“I mean, how could your opponent beat you in battle if they were transfigured into a cow?” 

Harry’s mouth dropped open again, but this time the corners of his mouth were upturned and he laughed breathily. “Are you serious?” 

“It makes sense, doesn’t it!” Evelyn laughed, too. “My professors gave me the same look, thought I was ridiculous at first as well. But when I bested all of my classmates by transfiguring them into tea cups and cats and binoculars, and they had to change them back, then they began to feel my argument was persuasive.” Harry laughed again, and she did too. “I like to provide plenty of evidence.” 

“I’ll have to practice my shield charm before we practice.” 

She nodded enthusiastically. “It doesn’t help that Aunt Minnie is brilliant in Transfiguration. She offered a lot of help that first summer, when I was first interested in the Greeks.” 

Harry raised an eyebrow at Minnie, but only replied, “And what about the Victorians?” 

“As a young Englishman, I assumed you would be familiar with the Victorians?” Evelyn cocked an eyebrow at him, the firelight reflecting in her eyes and making her look more playful. Harry had never seen her like this. Usually, she felt so aloof—happy, giddy even, but not attainable. There were days in class when he felt that if he had reached out to touch her, his fingers would have slid through her like Nearly Headless Nick. That night, sitting on the couch, she was tangible. 

He could feel himself smiling back at her, and he was struck by how natural it felt to talk with her. She didn’t seem to be bowled over by the fact that he was Harry Potter or skittish due to the recent newspaper headlines. She didn’t look at him the way the other students did. To be fair, most of the time she looked at him like he was a rainbow—but this was an interesting exception and an enjoyable alternative. 

“I know of the Victorians,” He smiled sheepishly. He had attended Muggle primary school until he received his Hogwarts letter, of course, but history had never been his strongest subject. “But I don’t know what they have to do with dueling.” 

“The Victorians thrived on societal constructs—you know, courtesies, graces, public and social norms. There was always a right response, always a right action. That’s why they’re remembered for being prim, proper, and prude. All the weird stuff was closeted.” As Evelyn explained, she moved her hands quickly and straightened her posture to illustrate proper. Her body mirrored her language as if she felt the words. “You can see that propriety in Ellie’s stance, right? The way she moves her wand? She’s very articulate in battle, even when she's not speaking, and she follows the traditional British standards of dueling that were popularized at that time. I assume many of the methods you’ve been taught follow those standards still.” 

Harry’s mouth quirked up on one side. He was impressed. “Perhaps? I’m not sure… Do you think you’ll be able to tell me when we practice together?” 

“I can try!” She happily agreed, that quirky emotional uptick flaring up. It didn’t feel organic, but he wondered what it was rooted in. Maybe she was just hiding behind the emotion because she was having a hard time transitioning to Hogwarts, maybe she didn’t feel safe yet—there were rumors something terrible had caused them to move—or maybe she was just a little off like Luna Lovegood. 

Harry nodded his ascent, looking gracious in the firelight. They picked a day and a time to meet, and he assured her there was a good space that he knew would be available for them. When he told her that he was going off to bed, she didn’t rise or agree that it had gotten late. She exchanged a good night with him, and stayed on the couch. Looking back from the staircase, Harry could see her staring into the firelight—the delight from her eyes subsided. She looked tired from that distance. She was aloof again. 

He thought about the strange thing she had said weeks ago in Potions, and he could tell something wasn’t right with Evelyn Castell.

 

 

 

 



Chapter 8: Fighting Dirty
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Later that week, Evelyn met Harry in the common room and, together, they walked to the seventh floor. She followed him to a part of the castle she wasn’t sure she had seen before, and stared at a tapestry of Barnabas the Barmy while Harry marched up and down the hall. 

She was on the verge of asking him what he was doing when she noticed a door that hadn’t been there before. Her eyebrows rose slightly, and her mouth hung open as she tried to find the right words. She was sure she didn’t look particularly flattering with her mouth gaping like that, but Harry’s smirk made up for it. 

“The Room of Requirement,” he offered without being asked, “It makes itself available to anyone who is in great need.” 

“And you’re in great need of dueling lessons from some witch trained in America that you've just met?” 

“You have no idea.” 



Evelyn quickly realized that Harry was very good at dueling. His stance was good, and his instincts were good. He applied the vigorous endurance he had developed from Quidditch to combat. He knew when to cast a shield and when to counter with a more aggressive spell. He seemed to favor disarming spells, which she thought was kind of him. After volleying back and forth for a while, she noted that his movements seemed to naturally mix the Victorian style with a more contemporary, athletic style. He asked her what that meant, but she just shrugged. 

“Nothing good, nothing bad. From what I noticed in class the other day, I would say that this is the style of most of the students here—but you’ve got great instincts and endurance. You're better on your feet than most, so I think that puts you a bit ahead of the pack.” 

Harry nodded, but his jaw was set. “That won’t do.” He said after a few minutes, reflective. “I need you to teach me how to fight like you do, like your sister does.” 

“What do you mean? It won’t do?” Evelyn stood across from him in the room he had required. It was a large space, perhaps too large for them, and there seemed to be a library of sorts with a variety of texts all related to spell casting. 

“I need to be able to fight Voldemort,” Harry paused, watching her face closely, “And win.” 





The October nights were increasingly cold and, as the fire began to die down in the common room, Elizabeth felt compelled to move to her bed. Though she knew she wouldn’t be able to sleep, she wanted to feel warm. The heavy quilts on her bed were appealing. Perhaps, she thought to herself, Hera is still awake. 

Hera, who shared the two-person dormer with her, had recently taken an interest in Elizabeth and had attempted to strike up conversations with her over meals or in their room if Elizabeth returned before she was asleep. Elizabeth wasn’t certain how she felt about this new acquaintance, but she recognized a need for allies. Thus far, she had spent much of her time alone, and there was a gnawing feeling in her gut that this was unsustainable.

“Headed to bed?” The drawl reached out to her across the common room, and though she was surprised that she hadn’t noticed she wasn’t alone she did not convey that outwardly. 

The person the voice came from didn’t necessarily surprise her. This wasn’t the first time he’d done this. 

“It is almost one.” She emphasized coldly.

“Early for you,” He replied, moving towards her as she began to pack her bag. She rolled up her essay, placing it carefully on top of her textbook. He picked up her quill before she could, rolling it between his long fingers. 

“Can I help you with something, Malfoy?” Early on, she had noticed that people called Draco Malfoy by his last name only when they were trying to express distaste, irritation, or general hatred. Gryffindors always used his last name. She had tried Draco during their early interactions, but since their conversation a few weeks ago, their relationship had slowly trended towards Malfoy. He had irritated her, and she wasn’t quick to forgive. 

“I’ve been waiting to talk to you.” 

“How long have you been sitting there?” She scoffed, irritated again. He’d been like this since her correspondence with his aunt had begun, and it annoyed her. Plus, she was increasingly cold and he had inserted himself between her and her quilts. 

He didn’t answer her question. Instead, he continued on as if she hadn't spoken (which only served to further increase her irritation), “He’s restless, they all are. He wants your allegiance.” Draco swallowed, holding out the quill for her to take. “His followers have proposed that the rest of your family meets a similar end if you aren’t marked soon, and He seems somewhat inclined to do so.” 

A cracking pain shot through her temple, and her eyes flashed. Even in the darkness, the way his words seemed to race across her face startled him. She was usually so composed, quiet, even downcast. She quickly pulled herself back together, rolling her shoulders down her back and setting her mouth back  into its familiar straight line. 

“Tell him that I am more than willing to let him rid me of my family, but that I won’t promise him anything until I feel swayed to do so.” She snatched the quill from his palm and dropped it into her bag, a new smattering of ink dashing across her essay. “Just because some patchwork hat placed me in this ruddy house doesn’t mean I fall right into his ranks.” 

She moved away from the couch, striding confidently towards the stairs. She could hear him groaning, and she called over her shoulder, “Or don't deliver the news. I’ll owl Bellatrix tomorrow. He can have it from me.” 

Draco watched her retreat. She was stunning, intriguing. He liked the way that her biting remarks countered her sweet features. But, in the back of his mind, he couldn’t help but ask himself, why did the Dark Lord want her so badly?

 

 



Chapter 9: Draco Determined
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Draco Malfoy had been patient. He had waited—longer than he had ever waited for a girl before. Since the beginning of the school year, he had been waiting. He had been working through his assignments, positioning himself within the House among his peers, and waiting. Since he had first been tasked with observing the Castell sisters and reporting on their habits to his father, he had wondered and waited for more information. When his father had told him to focus only on Elizabeth, he had continued to wonder and, when he was instructed to put her into contact with his Aunt Bellatrix, he had been confused. 

He had taken to staying up late in the common room, watching Elizabeth, wondering, and waiting. He had tried making friendly conversation, questioning her, and even cornering her in aggressive desperation. None of these seemed to jar her. She didn’t have any details he could shake loose. With the exception of that first exchange about dueling, which he had immediately reported, and the night when her face betrayed her, she was usually standoffish. Impervious even. 

Worse still, it seemed that more often than not, she didn’t even notice him. Perhaps that was what had initially drawn him in. He had never had to position himself to garner attention from girls—it had always just come his way. His name, his looks, his fortune were all attributes that contributed to the steady influx he had experienced since fourth year. Her total lack of indifference was like a fishing hook, gleaming in front of him and alluring. As soon as he had tried to tackle it, it wedged itself deep inside him, jarring and penetrating. He couldn’t pull free now, after weeks of her, and he was beginning to think he never would. 

The longer he waited, the more desperate he became. This last week in particular, he could practically feel the Dark Lord breathing down his neck, waiting eagerly for that moment in which Elizabeth Castell would confirm or deny Him so that He could respond, He could act. His followers were waiting and, like coiled springs, they were constantly contracting, eager to burst forth. 

The energy, the anticipation, was nearly overwhelming. Everyone seemed eager, even his father. Lord Voldemort was desperate to get His hands on this girl. 

Why? The question rung through Draco’s head each evening as he watched her from across the common room, and then later at night when he had finally gone to bed. He knew why he found her so intriguing, but he never could conjure up a suitable answer for why his lord was interested in her. 

Even now, as he watched her lean over her work in the common room, brushing back a curtain of hair, he asked himself why. Certainly, she had potential. She already had perfected the smirk, which he had been working on since the age of four, and the glare, often directed at anyone who crossed her path. She was beautiful, and would be a highlight among the other Pureblood women in their circle. She knew how to get what she wanted; she had the majority of her professors wrapped tightly around her finger—despite the fact that she seemed generally mutinous and depressed. At times, he thought it was a charade. It almost played to her advantage (though he noticed how often her aunt’s eyes were trained on her). 

Perhaps the most beneficial of her qualities was that she knew every single one of them. 

Draco watched as Rhett Addington entered the common room, dropping his books near Elizabeth’s feet and pulling a chair close to her. Hera Manos came in a few steps behind him, and took up another chair at the table. Elizabeth set down her quill, and the thin line of her mouth perked up slightly. She had only recently begun to nurture these acquaintances. 

For a brief moment in time, Draco wished he was that loser Addington—he wouldn’t mind confidently pulling himself close to that girl, and having her look up at him with even the briefest of smiles. 

She never smiled when he got close to her. 

Draco knew already that it wouldn’t take long for her to fully develop these acquaintances into friendships, and to fully establish herself in the House. Soon she would call them friends, and she would find more. Even Pansy seemed to like her. The underclassmen, who currently tried their best to never cross her path, would turn to her like flowers in the sun if she began to do so little as smile at them. They would serve her. The upperclassmen, who currently eyed her wherever her long legs took her, deemed her well-suited for Slytherian and silently accepted her. He assumed most of his male peers focused more on her legs than her suitability. 

It was about that moment, as her legs crossed his mind, that Rhett reached across the table and placed his hand on Elizabeth’s arm as they spoke together, with Hera, and smiled—and Draco knew. He knew that the Dark Lord wasn’t the only one after her. He wanted her.

 

 



Chapter 10: Dreamwalker
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Shaken by another dream, Harry clambered down the stairs late Saturday night—or early Sunday morning, depending on how you counted time. The violent winds from the previous night had brought ashen storm clouds over the school. They stretched past every window. As Harry passed one such window, a flash of lightening brightened the sky. It cast shadows across the common room where the only other light was the dying ember in the hearth. 

Though bleary eyed and tired, Harry noticed a willowy silhouette leaning against the couch, feet stretched close to the fireplace as if trying to connect with those last few bits of heat. 

With the exception of the thunder rolling outside, the room was quiet and he wasn’t sure if he should disrupt it. He studied the form closely, but couldn’t tell if the person was sleeping or awake. Stepping off the last stair onto the common room floor, he applied some additional weight to ensure his steps were heard. There was no reaction, no movement. 

The rain continued to patter against the window as he padded across the floor. His eyes, focused on the form, eventually registered the face of Evelyn Castell, eyes closed, face turned against the arm of the chair, blanket pulled up onto her torso with arms folded underneath. As he moved towards her, he could see that her brow would habitually scrunch up and release itself. Her chest was moving in a way that did not suggest peaceful sleep. 

Harry began to reach out a hand to shake her awake, but something gave him pause. Her shoulders were tense, her legs looking as though they were actively reaching for the hearth. Her body seemed discombobulated—still and not still at the same time. 

Evelyn’s teeth chomped against one another once, twice, three times. The sound was hollow, and a little startling. Harry’s hand hung between them, frozen. He wondered if this is what he looked like when he dreamed as he watched a few small beads of sweat curl against Evelyn’s hairline. Her lips began to flutter, and she mumbled nouns, verbs, and adjectives. None of the things that came out could be construed as sentences. 

The longer Harry watched her, the more he felt this must be what he looked like. He wanted desperately to wake her, to question her. What did she dream of, and—perhaps more importantly—what did they have in common here? A small prickle sprung up in the back of his mind that the answer might not be something he liked. The Order cleared her, he thought, but perhaps the Order was wrong. He tensed, still, not waking her. 

“Born under Gemini,” she muttered, body tensing more and more under the blanket. It was the first time she had gotten close to an actual sentence. Harry pulled his hand back to himself, staring at her, waiting for more. 

It came, mumbled—or choked on, “Neither can live.” 

The words were too familiar. Harry impulsively reached out, jabbing her shoulder almost too forcefully. Her eyes snapped open, showing first confusion, then pain. 

“What did you say?” The words were a question, but they came out more demanding. 

“Harry? Where,” Her eyes searched around, her brain slowly processing where she was and why he was leaning over her, knelt beside her, anxiety and anger waving across his face. 

“What did you say,” Even more demanding now, desperate. They had been dueling together only a handful of times, had been acquainted for almost two months, were only beginning to get to know one another, but in that moment he felt no sense of embarrassment or any obligation to propriety. He felt only entitlement. 

“I—I don’t know,” she stammered, moving her arms out from under the blanket, and dipping her shoulder towards him, stretching to look around. She could tell it was late, and they were the only ones there. This had been happening more frequently. It was as if her mind was a garden, and every once in awhile someone—or something—pushed open the gate that held back her memories, allowing one to slip into her consciousness and spread discord. It happened more often when she was sleeping, which she did so rarely. But when it happened while she was awake, it was painful. It was as if her mind split open for a moment, jarring everything the way a migraine might. 

“What were you dreaming about then?” 

She stared at him, blinking. She had been dreaming about Maryland, their home which was really only a few miles from her mother’s embassy and from the Academy but which had caused her mother great angst whenever they needed to take a Muggle car or public transportation into the city. There had been something amiss in the dream, something not right. 

“I was dreaming about home.” Her voice was soft, her brow knitting together again the way it had when she was sleeping. 

“You said, ‘born under Gemini,’” His reply came quickly, and he looked at the way her eyes flashed. “Was that in your dream? What does it mean?” He was moving closer to her, so close their noses almost touched. He couldn’t stop himself. He couldn’t pull back, even when his heart jumped a little when home came out of her mouth. Objectively, he knew he was intrusive and unfair, but he needed to know how that phrase—the phrase that he had rolled over in his mind again and again since Dumbledore had told him of the prophecy—had gotten into her head, and come out of her mouth while she struggled to dream. 

“I don’t know, Harry,” Her eyes looked down at her hands, her legs moving under her body. She wasn’t moving away from him, but she was pulling back. He could tell she was thinking, searching her brain for an idea, for the dream—which was moving from her quicker and quicker. Her head began to ache, her eyes wet at the corners. She was confused. “I can’t, I can’t remember.” 

“You can’t remember!” He exclaimed, his hands shooting up to her shoulders. “You have to, you have to remember.” He didn’t want to tell her the other phrase that she had said, he wanted her to remember on her own, to fill in the gaps without him supplying any additional information. 

Her eyes met his, and he knew she didn’t know. Her eyes were round and vacant, her brain still searching for more information. “I’m sorry,” she finally whispered, “I don’t know—I don’t, Harry, I would tell you,” she murmured again and again. 

His chest was rising and falling, and he felt himself beginning to panic. This was just one more thing that she had said that surprised and confused him. One more thing that suggested she knew something that he wanted to know. 

“She doesn’t know, Harry,” the voice called out across the common room, and his eyes moved up, surprised to see Hermione Granger standing near the portrait hole, watching them.

End Notes:

Author's Note: Thank you to everyone who continues reading! I've been reading a lot of different stories across the site, and it's been so wonderful immersing myself into the community here. I think I may have just made my way through the majority of Mistress's stories, which have left me laughing, smiling, and rolling my eyes at some of the antics of the characters. Her stories have such a lovely and humorous voice! 

 



Author's Note: Thank you to everyone who continues reading! I've been reading a lot of different stories across the site, and it's been so wonderful immersing myself back into the community here. I think I may have just made my way through the majority of Mistress's stories, which have left me laughing, smiling, and rolling my eyes at some of the antics of the next generation characters. Her stories have such a lovely and humorous voice!

The line "neither can live" is pulled from the work of J. K. Rowling, as are many of the characters and the setting, and are completely and entirely hers. The original characters, including Evelyn and Elizabeth Castell, and the AU-plot line are mine.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



Chapter 11: All Hallow's Eve
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It had only been a few days since Evelyn had awoken with an earnest, panicked, confused Harry leaning over her, pleading with her to share her dream with him. He had kept his distance since then, but Hermione had made apologies on his behalf. Evelyn hadn’t asked Hermione what she had told Harry, or how the other girl had known that she didn’t recall the dream or the phrase or any useful details that Harry might have wanted.

It was as if Hermione was her ally suddenly, and Evelyn didn’t question the shift towards friendship that had occurred in their otherwise straightforward acquaintance.

Late on Monday, after her homework had been completed, Evelyn thanked Hermione again for her actions on Sunday morning. The girl smiled, a mixture of sadness and empathy in her eyes, and told her that she needn’t be thanked.

“I don’t know what Harry might have done if he didn’t believe me,” Evelyn whispered in the hopes the other girls wouldn’t hear. Most of them had already closed their curtains, and were seemingly asleep.

“He wouldn’t have hurt you,” Hermione said evenly, her face open and honest.

“I know, but,” The words died in her throat, and she tried a small smile.

Hermione nodded with understanding. She had seen the way desperation played across Harry’s face in the dying firelight. Hermione hadn’t told him what she hypothesized, only that she had a theory she was hoping to prove that would explain why Evelyn wouldn’t possibly be able to recall the details he was asking for, but that hadn’t been enough to sooth him. He had been moody since she hadn’t confined in him and, while steering clear of Evelyn generally, was also keeping some distance between him and her as well. She was irritated with his behavior, but she couldn’t tell him her theory yet.

“I’m sorry if this has caused an issue between the two of you. I know you’re friends.” Evelyn continued, the small smile still there.

“We are best friends,” Hermione admitted, “And Harry will come around. He’s rather driven by curiosity.”

“And he’s curious about me?” Evelyn’s brows arched somewhat.

“He’s curious about what you know, yes,” Hermione nodded, her tone matter-of-fact. “I know you don’t remember, but you said a few things in your sleep that Harry thinks may be related to… To things he’s experiencing.” Just as Hermione didn’t want to give too much away about Evelyn to Harry, she didn’t want to give too much away about Harry to Evelyn. She chose her words carefully. “I’m sure you’d be curious, too, if the situation was reversed.”

Evelyn nodded along from her bed, only adding, “The problem seems to be that I don’t know anything.”

Hermione only smiled, scooting back onto her bed and bringing her feet under the covers. She had a meeting with Professor McGonagall early the next morning that she was very much looking forward to.

*

Evelyn was surprised to learn that interest in Halloween had ebbed and flowed over the years at Hogwarts. Some years, her peers had been content to attend a headless hunt—of which she could only somewhat comprehend from the varying descriptions—and other years they had done almost nothing.

“I’m surprised there isn’t a party,” Evelyn said to Hermione as they descended the girls’ staircase, books in arms. Hermione had been spending the last few days with Evelyn as they had most of the same classes. She had even been eating meals with her, and—if Evelyn didn’t know any better—seemed to take a general liking to her. Harry was still avoiding both of them, discontinuing his dueling practice with Evelyn and giving Hermione monosyllabic answers whenever she tried to talk to him.

Ron, too, seemed to be narrowing his eyes at Hermione when she passed, though both girls knew it was only because he was supporting Harry. After a few days of their antics and one particularly surly interaction, Hermione had exclaimed you are both daft, shortsighted boys across the common room. It was that particular outburst that had made Evelyn recognizing her growing fondness for Hermione.

“I’m sure if Ron’s older brothers were still here there might have been a party, but typically we only celebrate after a Quidditch victory. The only other exceptions were during the TriWizard Tournament.”

“Really?” Evelyn raised a brow, “We partied almost every weekend at the Academy. We often had no reason at all.”

“Perhaps Lee Jordan or someone will pull something together? If Harry and Ron weren’t being such gits right now, I’d suggest it to them—but,” Hermione exhaled.

“But they’re being gits,” Evelyn supplied, the British slang rolling off her American tongue awkwardly. Both girls chuckled.

The conversation died away and was ultimately forgotten after a particularly grueling Potions class. Evelyn had always been incredibly average at Potions, which had been fine by her, as she really did prefer to devote her energy to spellwork.

Slughorn did not seem overly impressed with her work in the classroom, though he did appreciate her surname and often stopped near her cauldron to have a chat. He had been somewhat put off by her happiness in the beginning weeks of the semester, but as she herself felt a little more even-keeled she noticed that he now took to her more often. In this particular class, he spoke with her so long that her cauldron over boiled. She was annoyed with him, but attempted patience with a smile as he waved his wand to clean up the mess and then continued on with his story. To her dismay, she left class fifteen minutes after the rest of the Gryffindors because he felt she needed to know the end of the story—and she had humored him.

As she quickly made her way through the dungeons towards the Great Hall, where Hermione had said she would save her a seat at lunch, she came upon two students in hushed conversation. She recognized the pair immediately.

Draco Malfoy leaned over her sister, his hand flat against the wall over her shoulder. He was less than a head taller than Elizabeth, but the positioning of their bodies made him look taller. Elizabeth was casually slouched against the wall, looking up at him. Her face was blank, her lips drawn in a straight line and her eyes looking up at his with boredom. Evelyn had seen that look before whenever Elizabeth had been asked to do a chore.

“Elizabeth?” Evelyn said her sister’s name softly, wanting to make sure she was okay. The pair looked up at her, their conversation ceasing instantly.

“Evelyn.” Her sister gave a curt nod, eying her but not asking her to stop.

So, Evelyn continued to move down the corridor, past them, without question. Only when her foot had hit the first stair and she had begun to ascend that she heard Draco pick the conversation up again. His voice was quiet, but Evelyn could make out tonight then.

*

There were two identical men standing in the common room surrounded by a small group, including Harry, Ron, and Ginny, when Hermione and Evelyn entered the room after lunch. Hermione had waited with Evelyn, who took longer to eat because of her delay. She had briefly recounted the exchange she had witnessed to Hermione, again asking if there were any parties or festivities happening in the castle that evening. Hermione, who insisted she hadn’t heard of anything, looked somewhat nervous and explained that Draco Malfoy wasn’t someone she particularly trusted.

Though they had stayed close to one another in the first few weeks of school, Evelyn and Elizabeth had never been particularly close since adolescence set in and, once they had adjusted to their houses, had begun to move away from one another. It hadn’t surprised Evelyn or even really concerned her; they had had completely different friend groups at the Academy and, despite their parents’ constant intercession, they hadn’t been particularly close. There was fondness, Evelyn thought, but not closeness. When Hermione asked why Evelyn hadn’t asked her sister if she was alright, she had replied, we’re not close like that… We haven’t been since we were little. There’s just always been something too different about us.

The sentence hung about Evelyn’s head, rolling over and over again as they entered the common room. It was a piss poor excuse, she knew, but she also knew it would have been strange from her to insert herself into Elizabeth’s life when it was so clearly evident she wasn’t wanted.

“Speak of the devil!” Hermione said, smiling as she walked up to the two identical men. Evelyn followed her over, smiling brightly at the two and ignoring the look of skepticism that washed over Harry as she came to stand with the others. “What might you lot be up to tonight?”

“We thought we’d come and peddle some new products to the lovely students of Gryffindor Tower,” one of them said.

The other added, “And what better holiday than All Hallow’s Eve?”

“And what of the loot of spirits you’ve brought with you?” Ginny said, smiling.

“Also for sale!” The first one replied, smiling broadly at Ginny, who Evelyn had deduced with evidently his sister. They had the same color and same eyes.

“So this has nothing to do with providing additional oversight as this is my first Halloween with a boyfriend?” Ginny chided, crossing her arms.

“That may have been an additional factor!” Supplied the second, “We knew Ron wasn’t tough enough to handle the job.” Ron blushed furiously, but didn’t retort fast enough as Hermione was quickly interjecting.

“I was explaining to Evelyn this morning that we don’t typically have parties unless Quidditch is involved, but that you might have played a factor in that if you were still here—and now here you are!” Hermione motioned to Evelyn, who quickly introduced herself to the first one—Fred—and the second—George—of Weasley fame. She immediately took a shining to the twins, who fueled one another. Their humorous volley made her laugh, and she liked the way they easily wrapped her into the conversation.

Evelyn and Hermione didn’t have afternoon classes, but they both agreed it would be nice to wrap up some homework they had started the previous night before they joined the festivities. This meant rejecting sips from a flask that Fred had produced from an inside pocket on his vest, but he promised to offer again later that night.

The girls disappeared to the library for a few hours, and when they returned shortly after dinner—assignments complete and sights on a festive evening—the common room had been rearranged. Furniture was pushed against the walls to allow wallflowers to seat themselves. The study tables had been arranged to accommodate the various different bottles and products that the twins had brought with them. Steamers hung across the ceiling in colorful disarray, and music came from a gramophone. The fire crackled happily.

A few people had seated themselves on the couches, and a few more were browsing the twins’ products. Otherwise the room was empty as most people were either finishing dinner or changing out of their school robes.

Hermione and Evelyn stopped at the table briefly to check in with Fred and George, who were already quite happy with their sales. They were hurried away by the twins, who insisted Hermione should find an outfit to “show some leg for once,” which made Hermione blush as they ascended the stairs together.

While they dressed, Hermione told Evelyn of the summers she had stayed at the Burrow with Ron’s family and of the twins’ dramatic exit at the end of the year. Some of the tales she told made Evelyn giggle while others made her eyes round out in shock. She was surprised to hear how much the trio had been through together. She had heard news of some of the things that happened at Hogwarts, but it was always unclear how reliable the American papers were as they were evidently biased—particularly since the return of the Dark Lord.

When they returned to the common room, there were many more people filling the space. Ginny was dancing with Dean Thomas amongst a few other couples. Her brothers each seemed to have one eye on her, and one eye on whomever they were talking to. Many people were crowded onto the couches, talking with drinks in their hands or without. It was a casual atmosphere. Though not necessarily what Evelyn had expected in regard to a Halloween event, she felt it was a good opportunity for her to better experience her house and her housemates. She hadn’t really taken advantage of many social events, and now was her chance.

*

“You are standing very close to me.”

“It’s not safe here.” He eyed her. They stood in a clearing of the Forbidden Forest just beyond the school grounds, waiting for the arrival of their port key. His aunt’s letter had given them specific directions to follow, including the location of this clearing and a description of the white porcelain chipped teacup with a small red fleur de lis pattern around the rim that would appear in the clearing around eleven. It would disappear after ten minutes if it were not used.

“It’s safer standing close to you… My stalker…” Elizabeth murmured, crossing her arms over her chest. The sleeves pushed up on her black robe, revealing her white, slender wrists.

“I have not been stalking you!” Draco snapped, narrowing his eyes and shifting his weight onto the foot furthest from her. “I’ve been tasked with observing you.”

“You have a more important task from what I hear.”

“You know about the task?” He looked alarmed now. “You haven’t even been marked yet.”

“I know more than I should,” She smirked, tilting her chin up towards him and shifting her weight so that they were closer again.

The teacup appeared before he could reply.

Shortly after they landed outside the Lestrange manor, Draco said, “What are you getting at? What do you know?”

“Just that you might need some help,” She pulled her hood over her head, tucking her long hair into the cloak. “And that I’m not alone in that opinion.”

“Are you offering? Or are you just looking to be a part of the glory.”

“Murder isn’t glory,” She said quickly. “Revenge is.”

They approached the door and Draco traced his finger along the wooden panel just as Bellatrix had instructed him in their letter. There was a dull throbbing at the base of her skull, but she didn’t want him to know. The aching was becoming a familiar feeling, and she wondered briefly is Evelyn felt it, too. Dismissive, distant Evelyn who had moved away from her as soon as she had found an opening in her new house—no different than at home Evelyn. The thought alone caused the throb to increase, and she found herself hoping that Evelyn could feel it.

Bellatrix approached them in the entrance hall, fussing over Elizabeth in an almost maternal way that Draco had never witnessed before. She took down Elizabeth’s hood, fluffy her curls so they lay attractively across the black fabric. The entire ceremony had been detailed in her letter, but she took a few moments to remind Elizabeth of the steps. She nodded, her expression blank as she committed each piece to memory.

Just before beckoning them onward, Bellatrix added, “He’ll be marking you himself.”

The sentence made Draco start, but Elizabeth didn’t react. She’d had a feeling he would want to, given everything she’d learned thus far.

“That’s unprecedented,” Draco said, but his mouth snapped shut immediately when his aunt looked at him with disgust. They were silent as they continued down the hall, entering a darkened dining hall where a handful of people had already gathered. Most were masked. Elizabeth didn’t look at them. She kept her eyes at the man standing near the head of the group, a large snake lounging around his ankles. His red eyes followed her intently, concentrating on her. She could feel him attempting to work his way into her mind, but she felt inclined to refuse him. As she did, he smiled—or attempted to smile, as the way his lips curled upward on wither side was more like a snarl.

The ceremony was straightforward enough. She followed Bellatrix’s advice, kneeled when she knew she should kneel, responded when she knew she should respond. She devoted herself to him verbally and, when that was over, signed a contract he had formed using dark magic. Bellatrix had told her of this document as well.

When the time came to sign it, the Dark Lord said, “You sign in blood.” His voice filled the hall. There was a knife and a quill on a platter beside the prie dieu she knelt on.

Without hesitation, she took up the knife and passed it across her left palm. With her uninjured hand, she picked up the quill and quickly dipped it into the slit. Then, with large loops and swift curves, Elizabeth signed her name. In the yellow torchlight that illuminated the hall, Ellie saw her name shine gold. Then, the contract ignited itself. The flames licked every inch of the parchment, but the paper did not burn.

“Your alliance has been tested and proven.” The Dark Lord declared, a sense of greediness in his tone that Elizabeth liked. She looked into his eyes from the prie dieu and smiled as he asked for her arm.

It wasn’t until Draco had returned them to the clearing just beyond the school grounds that the throbbing in her head overtook her. She collapsed there, her fingers still locked with his, thinking only of the way her forearm burned with the Dark Mark.

 







 

Author's Note: I apologize for the delay! I was hoping to get this out last weekend, but had an event to attend and was away from my computer much of the weekend. But, here it is, alas! The long chapter I've been alluding to... and I can promise it will be followed by another long one, soon.

I'm also working on a long one that will come a little bit later. (I think you might be able to guess why it's long!) It's definitely been a bit rough to come at, since the original version of the story allowed for something quite different that wouldn't work in this revision. But it's definitely coming along and I'm excited to see what ya'll think of the next few chapters... There's a lot of important plot moments ahead! I encourage reviews!

Credits: Chapter image and all original characters by me. Canon characters and setting by J.K. Rowling.


Chapter 12: Hallowmas
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Evelyn had been leaning over a tower of Weasley product, smiling at George, when her eyes rolled backwards and she collapsed on to the floor. The neon orange products came down with her, a few of them breaking open and leaking onto the floor.

George moved quickly around the table and was the first one at Evelyn’s side, followed closely by Harry and then Hermione. The Gryffindors moved away from her, making room but not getting too far away so that they could clearly see what was happening. George checked her pulse, and then felt her head. He looked at Hermione. “She’s warm and looks a little flushed, but she’s breathing normally.”

“Was she drinking?” Harry asked, also looking at Hermione.

She nodded, “No more than me though.”

George reached up to the table, and grabbed the cup she’d been drinking from. He sniffed it, but shook his head. “I don’t think there’s anything wrong with it, but it’s difficult to tell.” He asked Fred to bring some water over, and asked Ron to toss him a pillow from where he was seated near the fire (and craning his neck to observe the scene).

Hermione felt Evelyn’s wrist again, just as George had. She wrinkled her nose, trying to decipher something new, but unsuccessful.

Evelyn’s teeth chomped against one another three times, and Harry’s eyes focused on her keenly. It was the same noise she had made the other night when she was sleeping. His brow furrowed, and he shot Hermione a look filled with suspicion and annoyance. Perhaps if she had told me what she suspected, I could be more useful, he thought bitterly.

Before he could open his mouth to ask Hermione what she thought they should do, Evelyn gasped once, twice, swallowing air greedily as her chest buckled upward. Then her eyes flew open.

*

Elizabeth could feel the low-hanging branches scraping across her arm before her eyes opened. She was disoriented, and initially couldn’t tell how her body was moving. When her eyes flickered open, she saw the moon first—then the dark outline of a man.

It only took a moment for her brain to bring back the events of the evening. Her body felt sore and exhausted, and her head hurt. There was something blossoming there, latent and on the edge of her mind. She couldn’t quite bring it to the front. Instead, she focused on the face of Draco Malfoy, who had yet to notice she was conscious again. His jaw was set with determination, and she could see a few beads of sweat on his temple. A piece of his blond hair had fallen from its manicured style onto his forehead. He looked a little more rugged than his typical getup. She liked it.

Her shoulders began to ache from the way he was carrying her, and she wanted to walk. Her voice was hoarse as she tried to call attention to herself. Draco almost dropped her when she did.

“Are you hurt?” His question came out in a whisper, and he eyed he genuinely as she steadied herself on her feet.

“I hurt,” She admitted, allowing herself to use a nearby tree to regain her balance, “But I’m not hurt. I’m okay to make it back to the common room.”

He studied her a moment. He bit his lip, thinking, and then said, “What happened?”

*

“I’m not sure,” Evelyn looked at Hermione anxiously. “I almost feel like I have a migraine.” She took the cup of water George offered her and slowly sipped.

“Do you want to go to the Hospital Wing?” He asked, taking the glass from her. People were still hovering about, but a few had returned to their conversations. One person took George’s spot behind the makeshift bar and began pouring some drinks, silently motioning a couple friends to come over and help him with the cups. Someone else turned the music back on. Hermione looked at the gramophone skeptically, but Evelyn was relieved to have the attention turned away from her. Her head hurt, and she couldn’t quite bring up a poker face just yet. There was something blossoming in the back of her mind, latent and on the edge. She couldn’t quite bring it to the front.

“No,” She felt sheepish sitting on the floor, and made to get up. George took one of her arms, and Harry took the other. “I think I’m okay, actually.” She could feel the blood rushing back into her head, a little more than normal settling into her cheeks. She felt hot, and her head pulsed unpleasantly. “Might actually need another drink,” She joked.

George chuckled softly, but Hermione and Harry just looked at her with tight smiles. “Better not,” Hermione replied. “But if you’ve got a migraine, coffee might help.”

She nodded, knowing that a cup of coffee would give her something to do—something to look at and hold, something to pay attention to. She desperately wanted something to pay attention to as she stood, fawned over by a handful of people, in a common room that was still new to her.

George handed Hermione a glass from the bar, and before Evelyn could do much more than nod, black coffee was spurting out of the end of Hermione’s wand and into the glass.

Evelyn took the cup graciously, taking a sip and burning her tongue a little. She didn’t even mind as the burn distracted her momentarily from the weight of her head. She looked at Harry over the rim of the glass, noting that his eyes didn’t seem to leave her. She would have spent more time wondering what he was thinking if she wasn’t distracted by that probing thing sitting at the edge of her mind. It was a like she had forgotten a word that she needed in the middle of a conversation, and she could feel it there—on the tip of her tongue—eluding her.

“Can I get you anything else?”

*

“Just back to the damn castle.”

Elizabeth plucked a leaf off of her cloak as she rose from the forest floor. They had paused momentarily in their walk, and she had slid down the tree to rest. The longer they waited, the more her head hurt—and she wouldn’t give Draco the pleasure of carrying her over the threshold of the castle and into the common room (or Hospital Wing, as he kept insisting).

She grimaced for a moment, back on her feet fully and away from the tree. She hadn’t realized how much she was relying on its support.

“Are you sure you can make it? It’s not very far, but at least a ten-minute walk still. Maybe fifteen.” He paused, looking at the moon and trying to gauge their position like a dutiful boy scout.

“Just walk.” She snapped. The pulsing pain in her head was competing with the pain on her forearm, and she wanted nothing more than to lie in her bed. She hoped Hera had gone to sleep, though she was willing to bet she had stayed up waiting.

“I need to make sure you’re okay,” He insisted, “I can’t be responsible for your death, considering how fond He is of you.”

“Just walk,” She was getting frustrated. “I don’t know the way. I can’t get back unless you lead.”

“Is that you’re way of admitting you need me?” He drawled, a smirk appearing on his face. He was infuriating. He didn’t wait for her response, but he did turn and take a few steps along a trail that she hadn’t noticed in the moonlight. She followed, concentrating on his feet as much as she could. She didn’t want to talk; she just wanted to put her heavy head on the pillow.

There was still something there on the edge of her mind, bothering her. It was the same infuritating feeling she had when she couldn’t remember the answer to a question on an exam when she distinctly knew that she should know it. It lingered there, biding its time. She wondered what it was—knowing it wouldn’t be how much newt tail was needed for a pepper up potion or whether her wand needed to circle clockwise or counterclockwise for a levitation charm—and when it would make itself known.

They walked for a few minutes before Draco broke the silence. “Are you sure you’re doing okay?”

*

“Yes, better now actually.” Evelyn set the empty glass on the bar, smiling at George. He had returned to his products, righting the display that she had taken down with her while Hermione watched her drink her coffee. She had wandered back over to him when Harry had asked Hermione if he could have a word with her in private. They were off in the corner of the common room now, whispering adamantly back and forth. She could tell by the narrowness of Hermione’s eyes that it wasn’t going well.

“Is passing out a thing you do often?” Georged asked innocently, smiling at her.

“Not to my knowledge,” She returned in the same playful tone. “Although I’ve been known to do worse when I’ve got a stiff drink in my hand.”

He quirked an eyebrow up playfully, and she realized that she liked the way he looked—or, perhaps, she liked the way he looked at her. His eyes didn’t hold the same curiousity that many of the other students had when they realized that she was the transfer student that’d heard this or that about.

They fell into conversation easily, and she was delighted to hear about his new business and the products he was currently developing. For a few minutes, she was able to focus on him and the conversation—and forget about the way the pulsing was slowly transforming into a throbbing behind her eyes. It was almost two in the morning, she realized, and the crowd was starting to thin. Fred was trying to push some products with a sleepy group of first years, and George was starting to pack away the few items that were left on the table. Ron had fallen asleep on the couch, and Ginny had disappeared to bed—separately from Dean Thomas, who Fred had escorted to his room. Hermione and Harry were still in conversation, but her eyes were notably less narrow. There was a few other familiar faces hanging about, including one couple sitting intimately by the fire, lips rarely leaving one anothers. It was perhaps the quietest Halloween she had ever celebrated, and this first day in November was already beginning on a more somber note than years past.

She knew she needed to sleep, but she wasn’t sure if she could. The idea of sleep made her nervous. Would that little bit of information she couldn’t quite get a grip on come forward while she dreamed?

“Bed?” Georged asked, noticing that she hadn’t replied to him in a few moments. He could tell by the look on her face that she’d been distracted by her thoughts. “You look tired.”

“I feel tired,” She sighed, not getting up from the seat she’d pulled behind his sales table. “I haven’t felt this tired in a long time, actually.”

“But you don’t want to go to bed?”

“You are a good conversationalist,” She smiled, “And I assume you’ll be gone in the morning?”

“You assume correctly,” He nodded, “We’ll be exiting through the floo in Dumbledore’s office.”

For some reason the thought of flooing made her crinkle her nose. It seemed to tug at the thought on that was eluding her. Floo, flooing, the floo network, she rolled all the variations over in her brain, but still, it wouldn’t come fully into the center of her mind. She was starting to become irritated, and she realized quite suddenly that her head hurt a lot more than she had been aware of. “I think I’m just going to sit for a little while,” she hummed a little, picking up the water glass she’d been sipping from and moving towards the couch that she favored near the fireplace. She ran her fingers across the arm, steadying herself a little.

“I think you just want to watch me clean.” George chided, watching her move away from him.
 








Author's Note: Thank you to all of my readers for breaking into 300 reads! For some this may be a small milestone, but for me--well, I think it's amazing! Keep with me... It's just getting excited. 

If anyone feels like reviewing, I'd love to know what you think of the movement in this chapter between the sisters!

Credits: Chapter image and all original characters by me. Canon characters and setting by J.K. Rowling.


Chapter 13: Closed Doors
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“And then she fainted.” Hermione concluded matter-of-factly, raising her teacup off of the saucer that had been handed to her. She sipped at it politely, but her eyes never left her professor’s face. She wondered momentarily if her hands were shaking, but the cup didn’t clatter against the saucer as she brought it back down to her lap. She crossed her ankles, blinking quietly at Minerva McGonagall.

Minerva nodded almost absentmindedly. Her lips were pursed and Hermione could tell she was thinking though she did not give much indication of it.

Normally Hermione considered herself to be a quite composed person, but the longer she sat across from her professor without a whisper or a hum the more unnerved she felt. After what seemed an eternity, there was a noise—unfortunately it was the sound of Hermione’s cup rattling against the saucer in her lap.

Hermione recounted the monologue she had delivered. Evelyn seems to be oscillating between feelings of aloofness, giddiness, and pain…. The closer I seem to get to her, and the more she seems to trust me, the more her behavior normalizes. However, the closer she gets to other students, the more fragile the amnesia becomes. I think this may be due to the fragility of the charm generally, but also because as she builds more meaningful relationships her consciousness is making connections to former experiences as she builds new memories. This would involve recall, comparing, contrasting, functions which each require overcoming the hurdle of the amnesia…. I’ve tried observing Elizabeth, but of course don’t have as much access. Regardless I think she may be experiencing the same symptoms. I think they may be linked…. She’s been having headaches, maybe migraines. She’s not sleeping…. She fainted.

By the time she’d cycled through the entire conversation again, only one thing had changed. Minerva had unpursed her lips. There was another moment of silence, and Hermione considered interjecting. Then Minerva said, softly and slowly, “It won’t be much longer.”

Hermione bit the side of her lip, but still didn’t speak. It was very difficult to stop her from speaking, but she had been diligently working on her restraint since first year. Her friendship with Ron had been a helpful practice field.

“If she’s starting to do everything you’ve said, experiencing headaches, and losing consciousness, it won’t be much longer. All of the studies that Demeter has forwarded to me suggest those symptoms indicate the memory will return.” Minerva laced her fingers in her lap, but her shoulders were still tense. “Has she described a sense of forgetfulness, or partial recall? As though a thought or feeling is on the tip of her tongue?”

“I don’t think so—not to me at least.”

“Do you think she would have confided that to anyone else? It would be really important for us to know; it would indicate the memories are imminent. And,” Minerva paused, and her fingers tightened in her lap, “If we knew, then we could make sure they were in a safe place when it happened.”

“Perhaps Harry, but they seem on less friendly terms since the incident in the common room, or George, maybe,” Hermione sighed, adding, “They seemed to enjoy each other’s company at the party.” She felt as though she had betrayed a friend by confiding a secret to an adult. She wasn’t used to maintaining female friendships. There were different rules than those dictating male friendships. Her teeth sunk a little deeper into her lip.

As the conversation lulled again, Hermione realized quite suddenly how strange this whole conversation was. She felt almost as if she was plotting, but she knew it wasn’t exactly like that. She knew she was helping, as she had done in many scenarios before, and that she was doing right. She thought she was doing right.

When Hermione had taken all of the pieces—the strange conversation Harry had relayed after potions, the behavior of Evelyn and Elizabeth, their general aloofness, their sudden appearance without any real explanation, the fact the Order had approved of their coming to the school despite the Order’s unacknowledged status by the Ministry at this point in the war, the way in which Evelyn never seemed to refer to her past or former experiences, the way Professor McGonagall’s eyes followed her nieces at meals—and combined it with a little bit of research, she had developed a hunch.

It became a suspicion when she saw the interaction between Harry and Evelyn that night in the common room.

It had been confirmed when, as soon as she’d seen Evelyn to bed, she’d left the Gryffindor Tower, gone to McGonagall’s office, and laid all of the facts out for her professor. The look on her professor’s face had told her she was right before the older woman could vocalize it. It had been a mystery, and Hermione had solved it—no different than discovering the basilisk or Professor Lupin’s secret. What she did now was less certain, and more difficult to navigate.

Once McGonagall had ensured Hermione would keep this secret, she had enlisted her to watch the girls—or at the very least Evelyn—and asked her to dig a bit deeper into her research. It quickly became apparent that McGonagall had a plan, and Hermione had stepped into the middle of it. She hadn’t met Demeter yet, but she felt as though she had at this point. She had read her letters after McGonagall finished reading, had read the studies that had been forwarded, had written herself to share new discoveries from the restricted section of the library, and had seen a photo of her with Evelyn and Elizabeth standing in front of their home in Maryland. Their magicked faces smiled in a way that was only vaguely familiar to Hermione. The wind blew their hair about, and they repeatedly tucked loose strands behind their ears, just to be hopelessly undone.

That hopelessness was plain on each of the women’s faces, and it made them laugh. On at least one occasion, Hermione had watched as Demeter reached over to her right to tuck hair behind Evelyn’s ear, then to her left to do the same to Elizabeth, and then back again to her right to repeat with Evelyn—all while her own hair flung about. They laughed, and smiled, which made Hermione smile, too.

How had they gotten here? Hermione had turned the question over again and again since McGonagall had taken her into her confidence. She hadn’t explained why Evelyn and Elizabeth had undergone the amnesia charm, only that they had. If there was a mystery left to solve, this was it.

Minerva sighed, breaking Hermione’s train of thought. “What say you, Miss Granger?” Her glasses sat low on her nose, and she looked over the frames at Hermione. “Do we set them up to remember, or allow the process to precede at the pace at which it is already moving?”

Hermione gave her opinion, but she could tell by the look on her professor’s face that it was only partially received. She quickly finished her tea, and rose to excuse herself.

“You should write Demeter, and you should consult the Order.” Hermione added, biting her lip again. This time, she tasted blood.








Credits: Chapter image and all original characters by me. Canon characters and setting by J.K. Rowling.


Chapter 14: Permanent
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Elizabeth studied her forearm with admiration as she gently glided soap up and down her arm. It was a little tender still, but she liked the sore feeling as she moved the bar against the slender muscle. She had never thought of getting a tattoo, as there had never been anything she liked so much to want with her all the time. However, this, this was something she didn’t mind carrying with her. It felt important.

Perhaps more significantly it felt permanent.

The smile dropped a bit when she felt a gnawing feeling at the edge of her mind that suggested this was the first thing she’d ever had that felt permanent.

She placed the soap on its ledge, rinsing her hair and turning off the water quickly. She began to move more rapidly through her routine, trying to ignore the dull thud in the back of her head as she wrapped her hair quickly in a towel and casted a few glamour spells. She didn’t bother to look in the mirror. She moved into the room she shared with Hera, her eyes lingering on her roommate who sat on her own bed, pulling a nail file across her fingers.

“Can I see it?” Hera didn’t look up, but Elizabeth could tell she was eager to see. The night before, when Elizabeth couldn’t sleep, Hera had rambled on and on in an effort to soothe her new friend. Only Draco has received the mark, otherwise this is unprecedented. And, you know, Draco only received it because of the mysterious task that everyone has been whispering about. Do you know… Do you have a task? Is there a reason….

Elizabeth extended her arm triumphantly, her small smile extending to a grin as Hera pulled her arm closer. Elizabeth’s legs stuttered below her, and she took an extra step to balance herself. Hera was running her finger across it.

“It’s smoother than a tattoo, you know,” Her eyes looked envious, “Almost like it’s just a part of you… Instead of on top of your skin.” She sighed, adding, “I think it’s amazing.”

Hera met Elizabeth’s eyes, and she could see it there—the emotion almost like adoration, the knowledge that they were apart of something so much bigger than themselves. That Elizabeth had a purpose. She soaked in her friend’s admiration with greed.

She reluctantly ended it, pulling out her wand and placing a glamour charm over her forearm that Bellatrix had recommended to her. A shimmer waved over her arm and the mark seemed to sink into her skin, disappearing. Hera looked up at her with slight disappointment. “I had to,” Elizabeth shrugged, “You know it’s not safe. Not everyone feels the way you do about it.”

“You mean jealous?”

Elizabeth smiled, moving towards her wardrobe and beginning to dress quickly. They fell into easy conversation, pattering back and forth, and eventually agreeing to venture out to the library in an attempt to do more than gossip.

They had barely settled into their Ancient Runes essays when they were interrupted by a cold drawl, which split the silence. It was a solemn word: “Elizabeth?”

She knew immediately who it was, and didn’t look up when she replied, “Draco.”

“Is that your Ancient Rune’s essay? Is it done? I’d like to copy it, or yours Manos, if you will?”

Hera, like many girls in their house, batted her eyelashes at Draco and quipped, “I guess I could do you this favor, but I haven’t finished mine yet. We’re actually just starting.” She paused a moment, tucking her hair behind her ear, “Why don’t you join us instead?”

His cold eyes flitted from Hera, who looked at him sweetly, and Elizabeth, who was focused on whatever she was writing, and then he dropped into the seat across from them. They worked in relative silence for many long minutes, and Elizabeth made great progress. She found that she actually enjoyed Ancient Runes, and liked to prepare for and take part in Professor Babbling’s class discussions. It was one of the few classes her sister had never taken an interest in, which back home had been a relief to Elizabeth. It continued to be so here.

When she completed the first of the two translations, she paused to look around the table. Draco was almost done with the passage she had just completed. He had some ink rubbed along his right pinky finger, and the fingers of his left hand were woven through his hair. There was a single wrinkle between his eyebrows, which her eyes lingered on for a moment before she turned her eyes to Hera, who was busy chewing on the end of her quill. She had gotten as far as writing her name on her parchment, which made Elizabeth grin a little. She’d offer to help as soon as she finished the second translation.

“I’ll be needing Montgomery’s Through the Sands: Eroding Ancient Runes,” Elizabeth said, scooting her chair away from the table. Draco looked over at the second passage and nodded in agreement.

“I’ll come with you, I’ll be needing it as well.”

Elizabeth gave curt nod, allowing him to follow her into the stacks. The shelves seemed to stretch on forever, and before long she felt far removed from the table where they’d been working. There were no other students. She could see only books as she searched for the right section.

The light was low, and the titles were hard to see. She knelt down beside the large dusty books, prying two copies of Montgomery’s text from the shelves. She smiled triumphantly, rising to her feet and pulling the heavy books up with her. When she looked up from the cover, her breath caught in her throat. Draco was standing so close to her that the books were pressed up against his chest.

Elizabeth hadn’t been this close to another person, to a man, since… Her mind struggled to bring up a memory, and then stopped trying as a dull throb reminded her of the headache that seemed to be constantly present. She briefly wondered if she should see that nurse at the hospital wing or mention the feeling to her aunt before her thoughts came back to Draco, examining her in the low light.

“Can I help you?” She tried to settle her breathing, attempting cool.

“How’s your arm?”

“Sore,” She replied, looking at him looking at her. She let her eyes move over his features. This wasn’t the first time that he had leaned over her in an attempt to draw her attention, but this was the first time she let herself really look at him. In most other instances, she’d been annoyed. He had been on the fringe of her existence, always seeming to interject in what felt like a concerted effort to disrupt, confuse, or annoy. He had something to add, something o question, almost every evening. She had even written to Bellatrix to complain of him as a middleman of sorts, adding that she was relieved to have her correspondence as a means to circumvent him. (Bellatrix had ignored the tangent in her reply, which hadn’t gone unnoticed.)

Something felt different after last night, and she could still feel the way his arms had felt carrying her through the forest.

She noticed he looked a little paler than when she had first met him at the beginning of the school year. There were small, purplish bags, most likely from lack of sleep, under his eyes. His cheekbones were hight, his chin pointed. But she was willing to admit there was something attractive about him. Perhaps it was the low light, or the warm dusty smell of the stacks in this section of the library. He felt inviting.
“It’ll be that way for a while,” He replied, still searching her fact. “I can remember.”

“Any recommendations for it?” She breathed lightly, wondering why he was so close to her if he wasn’t going to do more than recommend cold cream to her.

“Get use to it.” He smirked, “It’s only the beginning.”

“I can handle it.”

“I’d hope so, partner.” He drawled, his eyes pouring into hers.

“Partner?”

“Didn’t Aunt Bellatrix write this morning?” She was suddenly aware that he knew something she didn’t know, and she didn’t like the feeling. He was immediately less inviting, immediately annoying again. “Perhaps her letter is on the way still, she may write slower than my father.” He withdrew a square of parchment from his cloak, handing it to her.

She exchanged the texts for the letter, opening it under his gaze and scanning over its contents until she found the only paragraph that seemed to matter.

He has instructed me to inform you immediately that your task will henceforth be a shared task. I’ve attempted to convince our Lord that you have made great progress on your own, and that making a change at this point could have a detrimental affect on your work. I will spare you the details of the counterargument. Know only that He favors the girl, and it will behoove you to make best the situation as it now presents itself.

Your aunt will be writing the girl to provide additional details, and I suggest you arrange a time to communicate with her as soon as possible. I’ve also been told to inform you that this should be considered an honor, given his preference for the girl. Your success will be rewarded, I’m told, with the thing you want. (He would not elaborate.)

Your mother and I know that you understand the deep importance this holds for our family. For you.

The letter went on, elaborating on this importance. The weight on Draco, which many of the students in their house had speculated upon over these last few months, was immediately clear.

“Did you know?” Draco’s voice was a little sharper now, and he leaned a little closer. Her mind was working quickly, moving across the night and Bella’s earlier letters. She had held a private audience with the Dark Lord last night, and he had told hre of the task. 

You’ll have the opportunity to prove yourself soon…. I know the important position I hold for you…. I know you will not disappoint me…. When I witness your success, my plans will unfold for you. I will train you—father you…. When you succeed.

“No,” she lied, and she could swear the mark on her arm burned more than before. Draco’s eyes crawled across her face looking for a contradiction. His lips were so close to hers that she could feel his exhalations like a soft breeze brushing against her.

“Now, tell me, do you think this is an honor?”

For a brief moment, she wondered again if he was going to kiss her—or if he was at least thinking about kissing her. Then she felt annoyed with herself, and more annoyed with him. She narrowed her eyes and pressed the letter against his chest, tugging unsuccessfully at the books in his hands. They were somehow closer, and something flashed across Draco’s eyes but he didn’t back down.

“How did you sit across a table from me for hours with this in your pocket, waiting to get to me like this in the back of the library?”

“I’ve been thinking about getting you in the back of the library for weeks now.” He smirked arrogantly at her, finally pulling away. She glared, frustrated as a blush spread across her cheeks. She hoped he didn’t notice, but she knew he did when his smirk began to look more like a grin. “Looks like you’ve been thinking about it, too.”

She rolled her eyes, trying to tug the books back again. He still wouldn’t give them back, and his grin widened. “Come off it, Draco. I think we should be getting back. You can continue to harbor mixed emotions for me at the table.”

Draco excused himself, with his copy of Montgomery’s text and his translations, after they returned. He was still smirking, and Hera watched him go.

As soon as he rounded the corner, she snapped her eyes back to Elizabeth and said, “You were gone for awhile.”

“Yep,” She replied, cracking the book open and examining the table of contents.

“Did you have a good time snogging?”

Two wildfire blushes burst across her cheeks. “We were not snogging.” The British word felt weird across her tongue, and she wondered if she sounded less convincing because of the novelty of the word. “We were just talking. He asked about my arm.”

“I’m sure,” Hera nodded, chuckling. “I hear he’s good, for the record. And you’d make a bloody perfect couple. So blond, so adept and smirking and scoffing.” She paused, looking down at her essay before adding, “Would make me sick, the two of you.”

Elizabeth laughed, still blushing and replying, “I don’t think you have to worry about any potential illness in your future. I would be stupid to get involved with him.”






Credits: All original characters by me. Canon characters and setting by J.K. Rowling.


Chapter 15: Bonfire Night
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“It’s a commemoration of the failed Gunpowder Plot.” Hermione stated matter-of-factly. “On November 5th, 1605, Guy Fawkes was arrested while guarding explosives that had been placed below the House of Lords in Westminster. He was a member of the Gunpowder Plot, which had planned to assassinate King James I by exploding the House during the State Opening. People across London lit fires to celebrate the survival of the King—and a few months later, the Crown made observance of the day a national holiday.”

“So you’re saying we have to celebrate with a festive bonfire, and perhaps some spiked cider and dancing?”

“I suppose,” Hermione replied, returning the smile she received from Evelyn. “Given the fliers.” She motioned towards the bright red, orange, and yellow fliers that papered the bulletin board in the common room. They had appeared overnight, and—from what Evelyn could gather—were a surprise to the majority of the students. Hermione had mentioned they hadn’t had a celebration, organized in this way, since their fourth year. The only exception seemed to be the Headless Hunt, which Hermione described as something else entirely.

From the fliers, Evelyn had discerned the entire school was welcome to celebrate Guy Fawkes Day—or Bonfire Night—on the grounds with a large bonfire near the lake, music, and dinner on the grounds. The fifth fell on a Wednesday this year, but classes were canceled for the celebration. When Evelyn asked her aunt about it at lunch, Minerva only said, “It’s a national day of thanksgiving.”

No one seemed to recall a time when the holiday had been celebrated at the school before, but—with the cancelation of classes and the added festivities—no one seemed to mind. Evelyn was looking forward to the first school-wide celebration, as there had been many at the Academy, but she could tell Hermione had her reservations. When she mentioned Hermione’s attitude towards Bonfire Night at dinner the evening before, Ron rolled his eyes and interjected, “It’s about the classes, isn’t it? Hermione hates missing the classes.”

*

The three women sat, chairs pulled closed to the fire in Minerva’s apartments. Each felt compelled to turn their eyes from the others as they passed through the details one more time.

“The celebration will begin with dinner, and go until midnight. We have planned to weave triggers throughout the evening, hoping to culminate in a complete erosion of the charm. Based on the studies you sent me, this seems like the safest method.”

“And there are other safety measures in place?”

“The Order will be stationed throughout the celebration, to maintain the crowd and keep everyone safe.”

“Are you worried about the vulnerability of the celebration? In regards to an attack, I mean?”

“No, it would be nearly impossible for an attack to take place on the grounds.”

“And Dumbledore has approved this?”

“Yes.”

“And you feel confident about the execution of the plan?”

“Yes,” Minerva said flatly. Almost convincingly.

“Hermione,” As Demeter said her name, both of the older women turned their eyes to the younger woman, “You know where to be?”

“Yes.” She looked up at the women, fire dancing across their faces. They looked sad, yet determined. There was something in Minerva’s face that Hermione had never seen there before.

Curt nods were exchanged, and an acknowledgment of the hour. Though everyone seemed ready to retire, they each hesitated. After a few moments of silence, Hermione asked the question that the two older women had hoped she wouldn’t, “What happens if it doesn’t work? Or… If it doesn’t go to plan?”

*

After lunch, Elizabeth and Hera sat on a knoll overlooking the lake. They watched in relative silence as Professor Flitwick and Professor McGonagall used their wands to construct a pyre. Logs and boards moved through the air, angling to fit together. They watched as Hagrid continued to bring more wood from the edge of the forest, Fang bounding back and forth with him.

“Seems a bit dangerous as holidays go.”

“The burns are typically controlled,” Hera noted, “It’s the effigies you’ve got to worry about.”

“The effigies?” It was a word Elizabeth recognized, but couldn’t ever remember using. When it came out of her mouth, it sounded as if she was trying it out—confused like a child just learning to spell.

“Dummies, you know, of Guy Fawkes. They burn effigies on Bonfire Night. They burn effigies of the traitor.”

*

Evelyn watched as students unfolded themselves from the benches alongside the house tables after the dinner feast had ended. As soon as the last student moved from their seat, the tables disappeared and music began to play. Professors had gathered around the pyre and were preparing to light it. A few Hufflepuffs started to dance, moving a little awkwardly but keeping time with the rhythm. Luna Lovegood spun around in circles by herself, her arms outstretched.

The scene felt familiar to her, and she felt a brief flutter of joy. Everyone looked happy, moving along to the music in the cool November air. She had worried it might rain, but she didn’t feel worried anymore. She began to move towards Hermione, who was standing with Ron and Harry chatting and observing the crowd.

“Thinking of dance?” She asked, inserting herself into the conversation. Harry eyed her, his face unreadable, and Ron looked red.

“Family history has illustrated that Ron dancing always leads to disaster.” A voice quipped from over Evelyn’s shoulder. The voice felt familiar, too, and something fluttered in the back of her brain as she turned around to find George Weasley standing there, grinning at the four of them.

Ron was attempting to rebuttal, but was overridden by Evelyn’s voice. “What are you doing here?”

“Disappointed?”

“Not at all. It’s nice to see you again.”

Evelyn turned back to the group and moved a little to the left, allowing George to enter the small circle they had formed. She felt herself smiling more and more as her eyes moved over George’s face, watching his mouth moved as he replied that he had been on an assignment for the Order in the area and that Fred was around as well.

The Order. She turned the phrase over in her mind, the fluttering coming back again. She wrinkled her nose slightly, looking from George to Hermione in an attempt to ascertain if this was a word she should be familiar with. Her eyes moved over Harry briefly, and she realized he was looking at her. His eyes seemed to be canvasing her face. She could feel her cheeks redden, and she wondered how long he’d been looking at her. She met his gaze, and he didn’t blink. He just kept looking. She broke the stare, unable to maintain it.

*

Elizabeth, Hera, and Rhett sat in a row on a bench near the pyre. Flitwick stood nearby, his back turned to them. He was beginning to light the pyre. They were trying to see how many swigs of Firewhiskey they could snag from the flask Rhett had brought before Flitwick turned around. They’d probably each had at least eight swigs, but Elizabeth was starting to lose count. She was preoccupied, trying to determine whether or not the night was warmer than she had anticipated or if the Firewhiskey was making her warmer. The scarf she’d wrapped around her neck was starting to feel too warm.

Rhett took a long swig from his flask and then stowed it inside his jacket pocket. “I’d like to dance. Might one of you join me?” He was sitting between the two girls, and offered his hands outwards simultaneously.

“I don’t think you could handle us both out there.” Hera chided, knocking her shoulder against Rhett’s.

“It’s professor-approved dancing only.” Rhett retorted, waving at Flitwick as he turned and eyed the three of them as well as the other students arranged on the bench. Elizabeth and Hera chuckled as soon as the Charms professor turned back around.

“Go on without me,” Elizabeth motioned, “I’ll dance the next one.”

Hera and Rhett exchanged a look. “You don’t mind?”

“Just one condition—leave the flask.”

*

Evelyn allowed George to lead her onto into the dancing crowd of students. She’d been surprised when he offered his hand, asking if he was sure and if he could step away from his work. He had tossed aside her worries, only grinning the infectious grin he always seemed to be wearing.

They started moving to the beat, chatting briefly and pointing out other couples that were upstaging them on the floor. He was much taller than her, and often had to lean forward, stooping slightly, to bring his ear close to her lips to hear her. Each time he did so, his sandalwood scented hair filled her nose. She loved the smell, and the way he talked to her so easily.

She kept making conversation, encouraging him to lean down towards her. The smell was better and better each time, and it slowly started recalling something to her. She was starting to get a headache from it, but she’d gotten use to ignoring the dull throbbing at the base of her skull and didn’t want to stop dancing. She liked the way his eyes looked back into hers. They didn’t have the same searching look that Harry’s had, or the bored speculative look that Ron’s had. They just looked at her like they enjoyed her.

The music shifted into a slower rhythm and the crowd thinned a little while other couples draped arms around one another.

“Well?” Evelyn hesitated in front of him, looking off to where they’d left Hermione, Harry, and Ron. They were still there, warming in the light of the bonfire.

“I’m not afraid of a slow dance.” He offered his arms out to her and she smiled, taking a step forward. She draped her arms around his neck, just able to clasp her hands behind his neck. He was tall, rosy cheeked in the firelight.

She liked the way he carried himself, and moved with her—graceful and confident. As they swayed, he continued to keep up the lively conversation, this time not needing to lean down for her to hear him. All she could smell was sandalwood.

*

Elizabeth swayed back and forth in the arms of Draco Malfoy. The slow song had just started when his request to dance left his mouth, and she was surprised to find he rather deft on the dance floor.

“So, what is this?” She smiled a little too toothily, the empty flask knocking against her side in her jacket pocket. “An opportunity for planning?”

He smirked, his eyes burning like sapphires in the firelight. She felt a little struck by those eyes, or by the amount of Firewhiskey she had consumed. Hera and Rhett hadn’t come back and, after a few dances passed, she had a feeling they might not. They looked rather comfortable on the dance floor, thrashing a little recklessly and laughing. She didn’t think they’d mind if she finished the flask—so she had.

“No, not tonight,” He continued smirking, “Seemed more like an opportunity for back-of-the-library references.”

“Oh,” She drawled out the word, feeling a blush on her face for the second time this week. She pulled back against his arms, which she found to be firmly on her waist. He didn’t let go. Instead he pulled her a little closer.

She could feel the winds picking up, but she still felt warm. She could feel the pins she’d placed in her hair loosen, her curls reaching across her face in the winds. She didn’t care. She looked past her hair at Draco, her eyes locking in with his. She smiled tentatively, unsure of his intentions. Her hands were a little tense on his shoulders, but she was surprisingly comfortable dancing with him.

“Lord, you’re beautiful.” He whispered. He wasn’t smirking. She could tell he was being serious.

“Lord, you’re drunk.” She mimicked him, chuckling a little. He didn’t chuckle, and he was still serious. She could feel her shoes sinking into the grass and her head was starting to ache. She leaned on him a little more, and could feel how close they were to one another.

He didn’t reply, didn’t rebuke her or roll his eyes. He just kissed her.

There was pain in her head, and a chill on her skin, stretching across her shoulder blades and settling near the dull throb she was feeling. The two sensations combatted one another. She wondered if she tasted like whiskey, or if she was teetering because his hands felt tight on her hips, pulling her closer so there was no space between them.

She couldn’t remember when she started kissing him back, but she didn’t regret it.

*

George led Evelyn to a bench near Hermione and her friends, which Hermione acknowledged with a nod and watchful eye. She sent her friend a furtive smile, which was hesitantly returned. She made a mental note to ask what the hesitance was rooted in, and she briefly looked forward to returning to her dorm later that night to gush a little about dancing with George.

They easily slid back into conversation on the bench, and Evelyn could feel George’s charm and chuckle pulling her in. She didn’t even think about returning to the dance floor. Instead, she felt her sides begin to split from his crazy stories and she started asking questions about the products he was developing with Fred.

He asked her questions about her life before Hogwarts, about the crazy stories he was sure she was keeping under wraps so as not to intimidate her new classmates. She tried to tell stories, but they came out jilted and she started to feel woozy. The ache in her head was more prominent, and the harder she strained to tell George about her life before the Hogwarts, the more fluttery and foreign her brain felt.

She wondered if she was dehydrated. She hadn’t felt this way since last New Years when…. She’d been dancing, and May gave her too many shots, and Theo’s arms had been around her, and she—couldn’t remember the rest.

George turned away from her momentarily, calling out to Ron who couldn’t quite hear him over the music. He was attempting to reenact a Christmas gag from their childhood, and insisted he needed Ron for accuracy.

While his back was to her, she took the opportunity o steady herself on the bench. She felt her hands curl around the edge. This felt worse than being drunk.

A different music started playing and it reminded her of Maryland.

Sandalwood filled her head. A bolt cracked through her mind and she realized the smell was familiar because of her father, who had worn sandalwood aftershave. She could feel her heart rate increase. She was warmer than before, and she wondered where these memories were coming from. She suddenly felt panicked.

This isn’t right, Evelyn thought, instinctually feeling as if she couldn’t remember. She couldn’t picture herself there—in Baltimore—at home. The aching in her head was spinning outward, and she’d never had a migraine like this before. It suddenly felt like every tendon of every muscle in her body had been tied into knots.

She suddenly felt like she couldn’t be here anymore. The fire was too hot; the music seemed to be getting louder. George was leaning over her, asking if she was okay, and she couldn’t respond. She hated the pressure of his hand on her shoulder, and he smelled—

She could see her father leaning over her, nudging her, whispering, Wake up, Evie. It’s Christmas. Santa’s come, and Elizabeth is already downstairs trying to restrain herself.

She bolted upward, unsteady on her feet.

Hermione was moving towards her, but she must have been wearing a new perfume because suddenly she smelled honeysuckle and another memory sprung into her conscious mind. Her mother, hugging her after school, reassuring her, It’s a new school. You’ll make friends. And, in the meantime, you have Elizabeth.

She pushed against Hermione, trying to move the smell away from her. The music was louder now, and she wanted to move away from it, but she couldn’t stand well and she felt dizzy. People were talking, but she felt nauseous. Her eyes began to brim with tears, and when George reached out to support her, she couldn’t push him away. She was too dizzy. Visuals started to dance across her eyes, and the fire felt more prominent—brighter, hotter, closer.

She could hear herself let out a sob, but she couldn’t feel herself sobbing. She didn’t feel connected to her body anymore.

*

The dull throb that had been radiating from the base of her neck was beginning to spread across her head. The music had shifted somewhat unexpectedly to a tune that felt distantly familiar. She pulled away from Draco, who hadn’t stopped kissing her through all the songs that had played. Even when they moved from the dance floor back to the bench, he had barely moved his lips from hers to look before he stepped. She’d thought he might have stepped into the bonfire if he wasn’t careful.

Her chest heaved, colliding with his as it rose rapidly. Before her eyes, white-hot visuals blurred her sight and she could feel the air getting heavier and thinner simultaneously.

“Are you okay?” Draco asked, his eyebrow arching.

Ellie tried to shake her head, but her equilibrium seemed off. She leaned back from him, but almost tumbled off of the bench. She hadn’t been hit with liquor like this before; something wasn’t right.

His hands wrapped around her waist, steadying her. His hands felt so tight on her body that they felt like they were cutting the oxygen off to her brain. She trashed against him, unable to restrain herself and not knowing what to do. Every bone in her body felt dysfunctional.

His eyes burned through her and, under his gaze, her stomach turned circles as her eyes darted back and forth across his face. His mouth was moving, but she couldn’t hear him anymore. His lips looked like someone else’s, and his face wasn’t his own anymore.


Chapter 16: Unforeseen Side Effects
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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 line "Either must die at the hand of the other" was taken directly from Rowling.

 

 


 


“Few side effects of the amnesia charm are known. Healers across the wizarding world are constantly researching this charm, among others, but discoveries in medical spell work are rare. I must warn you,” Dumbledore paused, reclining in his chair. “The effects that are known are extremely unpleasant. When the memories come back—as I’m certain they will, given your age and experiences—they will come in an onslaught. Witches and wizards have been known to experience severe emotional trauma, post-traumatic stress disorder, mental instability, and—in some cases—permanent insanity. Last year, a witch fell into a coma after having her memories triggered and she died three weeks later.”

“She died?”

“Yes,” he looked grave. “Not from the return of the suppressed memories. Survivors have reported that they were forced to relive many of their memories. This is the process that causes insanity, and this has driven some to commit suicide. Even after the memories are processed, side effects such as tantrums, spasms, seizures, and epilepsy have been reported. Survivors have said it’s difficult to explain the process, and studies have shown the effects and their duration are difficult to determine.”

Dumbledore paused before asking, “You understand the severity of this, don’t you?”

Evelyn nodded, turning her eyes to her sister before look back into those half-moon-framed eyes.

As she looked at the headmaster, the scene began to fade. Everything waned away until she was left sitting in her chair in the dark. The space around her was dark, darker than the blackest night she’d ever experienced.

As her brain made the connection to that black night, the memory was suddenly reconstituted around her. She was nine years old, and struggling to build the fire at the cabin her father had reserved for them in the Scottish Highlands. Her mother was sitting at a table near the kitchen area playing chess with her sister.

It was like a dream. She could tell it wasn’t real or, more accurately, it wasn’t real in the present tense. She could see the remembered scene through her eyes, and out of her body simultaneously. She could think outside of the memory, recalling that vacations like this had been typical when she was a child. Her parents had already divorced, but they maintained that they were still friends. They went about life as a family still—until her mother had relocated them to Maryland.

In fact, she realized suddenly, this was the last family vacation they had taken before the move. Her father had planned it for their Easter holiday, and her mother had thought it would be a good opportunity to broach the relocation with him. She hadn’t committed yet and she wasn’t sure what she wanted to do, and then—

She looked up from the fire as an owl swooped through the door, dropping a letter into her father’s lap. He was reading the newspaper, and folded it carefully before taking up the letter. She could see him reading slowly at first, then faster, his eyes devouring the words. With each word, the muscles in his jaw tensed.

“When were you going to tell me?” His voice was low when he finally spoke. It had been awhile since the family had conversed, and his voice cracked. “Athena, when? This week?”

Her mother didn’t need to know what the letter had communicated. Evelyn sat stupefied on the hearth. She was too cold, her knees hurt from her position, and she needed her father to help her light it, but she knew not to interrupt. Not to move.

“Or next, perhaps?” Her father continued. The hand holding the letter was shaking. “After we’re done with this family charade?”

“Ian, don’t,” Her mother eyed Elizabeth first, and then Evelyn. “I was going to tell you. I haven’t accepted; I wanted to make the decision together; I wanted—“

“That’s not what this says.” His hand shook more and his voice cracked again as he got louder. “Moody writes to ask if I’ll be relocating, or if he can count on me to continue our work here.”

“Moody had no right—“

“No right! Right! What’s right here?”

She stood up, taking a few steps toward him, and Evelyn wondered if she would kneel beside his chair and talk to him in the soothing voice she used when Evelyn was nervous and tired. Before she could do anything of the sort, the chair was abandoned. Her father looked at her mother the way angry drivers looked at other angry drivers on the motorway.

“What else does he say?” She asked, but he didn’t answer. “Nothing has been decided.”

“Is this some sort of revenge? Is that what you’re playing at? I left you, and now you’re leaving me.” The letter was becoming more and more crumbled in his hand, and with each exchange Athena looked more hurt.

“I would never do that to you. I planned—“

“You’re a petty bitch, Athena.”

Evelyn recognized that she was trapped in her body, forced to swallow down memories. She couldn’t wake up. She couldn’t even really dictate her actions; she just moved through the memory as she remembered moving through—thinking as a sixteen year old, but moving as a nine year old.

It wasn’t a dream, she decided then, as she began to move rapidly through more memories—some in chronologically order, some pulled out from a murky unconscious where she’d left them forgotten.

It was a nightmare.

*

Elizabeth bit her lip as the scene faded. She hadn’t thought about that fight in a long time—longer than just the amnesia. She hated to compare it to other memories for fear that they too would resurrect themselves around her. She did wonder, though, if Evelyn was here too. Trapped in this place, feeling itchy and breathless.

Dumbledore had warned them, and they hadn’t been thoughtful enough—hadn’t been cautious enough. Her chest felt tight.

The table she’d been seated at with her mother had long faded, but she was still seated in her chair. Without a transition, though, she was suddenly leaning against a cold wall at the Academy. Objects, time, space—they all moved without transition or without her acknowledgment. They were there, then gone. Her mind had free reign here to construct and deconstruct. It was disorienting. (She could see where insanity might come in.)

The wall she leaned against was familiar to her. It was just beyond the cafeteria door, and the sounds of lunch rolled out from there. She knew Evelyn was inside, probably sitting with Lacey Coupe, May Davis, Bobby Brown, and Devon and Theodore Roberts. Her sister went everywhere with them—floating down hallways, talking in hushed tones in the study hall commons, laughing at the football stadium.

Elizabeth went everywhere with no one. She claimed perhaps one friend, Khan Stewart, who was always willing to share his cigarettes and knew a guy who knew a guy who could score them something a little stronger when she fancied it. Khan was a good friend, she couldn’t complain in that regards. But she could in others.

Her father hadn’t written or called in weeks.

Her mother had taken to burying herself in work, nesting among confidential documents and dossiers in her office late into the night.

Evelyn had fully shrugged her off, really only speaking to her about dueling or making strained conversation at the dinner table on the rare occasion the family shared a meal. Though Evelyn had been distancing herself for years now, reporting to her mother that it was simply because they had different interests when, in early adolescence, Elizabeth had complained she was being excluded, Elizabeth knew the final straw had been her own actions.

Sitting there against the wall, she could still see the look of surprise and terror on Devon and Theodore’s faces after she’d taken out her wand and moved it so quickly that Bobby couldn’t defend himself. He was on the ground before any of them could respond, the profanities he’d been sending her way barely dry on his lips. Maybe she’d started it… Calling them Mudbloods, insisting her sister was only offering them charity by stooping to befriend them… But he’d taken it to another place.

She rationalized that she couldn’t blame Evelyn for distancing herself after that. But somehow that didn’t stop her from doing so.

Khan came through the double doors of the cafeteria, spotting her and pulling her to her feet wordlessly. He had that look in his eyes when he needed a smoke.

As she followed him outside, she wondered if she apologized to her sister—if she opened up for a moment to talk about their parents, her political views, what was important to her—if she could regain her. A part of her wanted to.

But, then she remembered the things Evelyn had said after she’d seen Bobby in the nurse’s office, bandaged and unconscious. You think you can act this way just because of ancestry is different than his? You think that makes you better? You’re a coward. You’re horrible. I will never forgive you for this—neither will mom, or dad.

It was that last bit that stung the most. This elusive father who never seemed to be as interested in Elizabeth as he was in Evelyn, who could fly a broom at six, liked to watch Quidditch games, was curious about his approach to dueling, and who seemed to have inherited his view of the world. Elizabeth hated brooms and sports. She didn’t know how to ask him questions. She never offered him coffee when he came to visit and mom wasn’t home. He made her quiet, with his quiet observations and blistering gaze.

She plucked the cigarette from Kahn’s lips, and inhaled deeply. She could go on with Evelyn, without approval. She didn’t need them. She didn’t need anyone. Not even Kahn, who was convenient and nice and likeable but also annoyingly servile.

She had been given a one-week suspension after she attacked Bobby, despite her objections and her mother’s attempt to pull some strings. She’d spent most of the time sleeping. Evelyn left homework for her outside of her bedroom door each afternoon, refusing to knock.

But she could remember, still, a voice had come to her. At first, she’d thought it was through the door—but when she opened it up, no one was there. A pile of untouched books, an empty hallway. The voice slithered to her, muttering riddles. As Helen did Troy… Clytemnesra… Betrayed as she was betrayed… Either must die at the hand of the other.

She hadn’t told anyone about the voice. At first, she thought she was dreaming—then she thought she was crazy. But it had come back since then, once, twice, offering her something not quite self-evident. She’d turned the pieces over again and again, trying to make sense of the riddle.

The previous night, the voice had introduced a new topic.

*

Evelyn blinked into the darkness a few times. That wasn’t my memory was all she could think. In all the other ones, she’d had a space to occupy—but in that last one, it was like she’d entered another’s memory as if in a pensieve. She’d gone into one once, when her aunts had shared some memories from her grandmother after she passed. She felt disoriented, nauseous. She felt bitter. She wanted out. Couldn’t she just take everything she’d suppressed, and walk away?

The same memory seemed to reconstruct itself, but from a different angle. It came back to her quickly, and she knew then that Elizabeth would experience what she had just experienced. Another unforeseen side effect.

She was inside the cafeteria, following Lacey to their usual table. Although she loved her classes, she loved lunch as it was always an opportunity to catch up, unload, and refresh. She slide into a seat next to Theo, briefly making eyes at him, before turning to Lacey to see if she’d want the mushrooms that had come on the cafeteria salad that day.

She could feel Theo lean his body closer towards her, still not leaving his conversation with his brother but acknowledging her wordlessly. She couldn’t help smiling as she moved the mushrooms onto Lacey’s salad.

The smile dropped from face when she noticed Elizabeth outside the cafeteria, walking down the windowed hallway with Kahn Stewart. She hated that they were friends. Not only was Kahn known as a bit of a burnout, but he was oddly puritanical—which made him a hypocrite in her opinion. He was crude and immature.

She watched her sister move down the hallway with him, towards the door that led to the parking lot. They were probably going to smoke cigarettes before afternoon classes started. This she hated, too.

Elizabeth’s uniform hung about her, a little too big for her thinning frame. Evelyn’s mother hadn’t noticed that both of the girls seemed too small for their clothes. Elizabeth’s dirty blonde hair fell down her back, bouncing behind her like a satin train. She hadn’t seen her watching.

Evelyn couldn’t pinpoint the moment at which Elizabeth had changed so drastically or when their friends had become just Evelyn’s friends. She felt that it happened overnight; they weren’t interested in the same things. Elizabeth stopped coming outside with her. Lacey started asking her about her plans in a way that suggested singularity. No one seemed to object until they were so estranged it would have been forceful, difficult, to merge their worlds back together.

That moment had come when they were thirteen or fourteen. Now, at almost sixteen, things had escalated. She’d attacked Bobby—Evelyn hadn’t been there, but from what she’d been told, Bobby had caught them smoking in the boy’s bathroom and said something rude. She had told him, Theo, and Devon to go to hell—they were traitor Mudbloods who’d get what was theirs. Bobby had crossed a line then, he admitted, saying he wouldn’t trust a whore like her to judge his fate.

She’d attacked him… And part of Evelyn understood why, but it was the violence she’d used that infuriated her. It was too much, too violent, too aggressive. From what Theo had told her, even Khan looked nervous. And Elizabeth had just stood there and smiled, waiting proudly while Devon summoned a teacher.

Evelyn shook her head as Elizabeth disappeared beyond the windows. She raised an apple to her lips, and bit into it, turning her mind from this different, strange person—this person who wasn’t at all like the sister she’d known.

*

Elizabeth felt itchy and panicked when the darkness returned. If she could see Evelyn’s memories, then Evelyn could see hers—and there were things that she didn’t want Evelyn to see. Her body felt hot, and she felt more constrained than she had before. This was hell.

She almost laughed aloud when the thought of hell brought her suddenly to her bedroom in their house in Maryland. She was standing at the window, watching her mother walk purposefully around the perimeter of the yard, casting a concealment charm, a security charm, and a few other things for good measure, she had said. Her mother and her father had appeared on a list leaked to government officials who were said to be targets of the newly returned Death Eaters. Not many incidents had been reported stateside yet, but Elizabeth had noticed more owls coming from her father in the last three weeks than he had sent in the last three months.

They’d seen the news—print, radio, even television networks were discussing the recent events. British Ministry Continues to Deny Potter Claims. Resurrection and Recurrence in Britian—Is It True? British Ministry Talks US, Canada Alliance Behind Closed Doors.

No one was confirming anything.

But the voice whispered to her still, it’s true… It’s true… My Helen of Troy, believe. Trust… I’m here for you. I’m here.

*

Evelyn could feel her stomach tightening as it had the last time she’d left her sister’s memory, but this time was different. It was a deeper feeling in her gut. She wanted to scream, Why hadn’t Elizabeth said anything? Why hadn’t she asked for help?

How long had the voice been coming to her sister, pulling her away from their family and perverting her? She’d built up these prejudicial walls, but Evelyn had always thought it was just a thing that happened to teenagers—the kind of changes mothers complained about that would fade with time. But, no, now she could see that they were fueled by something bigger than Khan Stewart. Something had crept into her sister’s life while no one was looking.

Even now, as they had paraded through the flood of childhood memories together, she hadn’t seen it coming. She had seen almost every moment of their lives, and then suddenly the voice was there—without question or concern, Elizabeth had accepted it’s presence in her life like wanted company. Maybe it had been with her before, maybe some memories weren’t shared or some had slipped through without being properly processed. (There was no guidebook. She had no real idea or concept of this was supposed to work, of what was normal or abnormal. This wasn’t Arithmacy; she couldn’t study this.)

Her mind was moving quickly, trying to process the gaps in logic or time, but she knew she was just guessing. As the memories became more recent, each felt longer and more detailed. They were closer. Maybe there would be something in one that was yet unseen that would explain to her when this had started, and to what end. She felt an aching need to confirm the trust in Elizabeth that had been placed there—since birth, since undergoing amnesia, since everything had changed and they were suddenly, momentarily, allies again.

A contradictory thought nagged at the back of her mind. Perhaps Elizabeth had wanted her memories suppressed for a different reason… Perhaps… Perhaps.

She moved through two more memories—suddenly, another blow coming to her gut. The first was hers—her mother making her a secret keeper for Grimmaud Place, the safe house they were instructed to go to if anything were to happen. The second was her sister’s—her father making her a secret keeper for his new flat, the safe house their parents would use in the event they needed to separate.

The perhaps that had been egging her seemed to click into place now. Bile stirred in her stomach, and she felt sick. The memories weren’t all back, some felt dizzy and confused, but she knew then—it had been Elizabeth, and hiding the prophecy wasn’t her only concern.

*

A small tingle of regret shook Elizabeth’s pride as the memory faded, and she knew Evelyn knew. If they were seeing this together, she knew. She’d had to know.

The consequences of her actions were regrettable; she was willing to admit that. He had told her that his followers wouldn’t harm them, and he had been wrong. She could remember that clearly, but she could also remember clearly the anger he had conveyed to her. Even months later while she was at the castle and settling into the Slytherian House, stories spread. Bellatrix confirmed them later. He’d killed the men who had gone beyond his orders. That memory was clear, sitting beyond the effects of the amnesia charm and in her stock of memories from that between-time, when she had forgotten why she’d gone to him but still felt compelled and intrigued.

He had been furious when he realized what she’d undergone. He looked into her mind, and found it blank. He dug deeper though—and when he resurfaced and gave her credit for the choice she’d made. Evelyn had been weak, wanting a way to bypass her grief. But she had been strategic, wanting a way to shift blame from herself for the betrayl. Bypassing her emotions, relieving herself from the burden of her shitty memories from the Academy and her upbringing was only a benefit. She had kept him safe, he acknowledged, and he rewarded her for it.

She looked at the mark on her arm, and the regret slipped away.

*

Evelyn was driving her car down the familiar side streets that led from Lacey’s house to hers. The windows were down, and the June air was warm. She was singing along to the radio, trying to stem the feelings of guilt that were brewing in her stomach for staying out past curfew and for leaving in the first place. Her mom had become increasingly strict as she received more letters—not just from her dad now, but also from her aunts and her mother’s friends. Owls were constantly coming and going, and the worry line on her mother’s forehead had deeped. She hadn’t wanted Evelyn to go out that night. School had ended, and a sudden influx of students into the neighborhoods made the streets feel uneasy. It was obvious her mother knew things that she didn’t know, but Evelyn didn’t care—she didn’t want a war overseas to affect her summer. At first, she’d thought the kisses she’d snuck to Theo were worth it, but alone in the car now she wondered if she should have been more cautious. She knew she’d have to talk to her mom, and they’d have to reach some kind of understanding—she needed more information if she was expected to be cautious. She felt that she deserved to at least know what was making all the adults in her life so uneasy.

She parked in the drive, and got out of the car. It wasn’t until she was a few steps closer to the door that she realized it was open. The lights were off, and the street felt abnormally quiet. The most prominent noise was the sound of the grass shifting below her sandles as she took another step forward.

When she crossed into the house through the front door—a door they rarely used as they almost always came and went from the attached garage—she choked out a hello. Her voice sounded foreign, fearful and raspy. She walked around the first floor, but there wasn’t anything to look at. Everything was the way she’d left it. When she turned her attention to the stairs, she noticed the air looked hazy there. A soft glow came and went, but no one answered her when she called out again.

The smell of nicotine intensified as she moved up the stairs. She saw her sister before Elizabeth saw her. She was sitting on the floor outside the bathroom door. A faint smell of bile mixed with the nicotine, which wafted from the cigarette in Ellie’s hand. There were a few discarded butts next to her, some of them only partially smoked. One had burned a hole in the carpet. Mom is going to be furious, she thought.

“Elizabeth? What are you doing?” She was whispering, but she didn’t know why.

Elizabeth’s eyes looked at her, searching for recognition. She looked detached, surprised. “Evelyn?”

“Yeah, it’s me,” She walked closer, crouching down and pushing the dirty hair out of her sister’s face. It was the first time they’d touched in a long time, and Evelyn felt self-conscious about it as soon as she pulled her hand away. She felt as if she’d overstepped. “What happened? Are you okay?”

With her hair moved away from her face, Evelyn could see a dark bruise had formed along Elizabeth’s cheekbone. Her lip was cut, but otherwise she looked okay. She didn’t respond though, which worried Evelyn.

“Where’s mom?”

Frightful eyes shot up towards her, but she still didn’t say anything. Evelyn’s heart was pounding, and her hand came up to Elizabeth’s shoulder to try to rouse her attention. “Elizabeth?”

“I can’t—“ Her eyes flickered towards the bedroom door, and Evelyn realized that she’d been crying. She followed her gaze, noticing too that some of the photos hung in the hallway were eskew. One of two had been knocked down completely, and there was glass littering the carpet.

“I’m going to have a look. Stay here.” She didn’t wait for her sister to acknowledge her. She pulled out her wand, creeping quietly towards the end of the hallway. The sliver under the door showed that some light was one, but it didn’t look like the yellow light of a lamp. She thought about calling out to her mom, but was too afraid to say anything. If someone was still here, she didn’t want them to know she was coming. She wanted to have an advantage.

When she threw open the door of her mother’s bedroom, wand aimed and eyes searching for a target, she was first struck by the way the night air felt—and how abnormal it was to feel it there. It took her a moment to process the fact that the western corner of the room had been blown away. Scraps of familiar wood lingered on the bed and floor alongside glass and plaster fragments. Feathers from her mother’s pillows looked like piles of snow alongside the bed. The moon shone bright and almost full overhead.
Her eyes searched the room, still looking for a hidden offender. Her mother’s dresser had toppled into the vanity, breaking the tall mirror as it had been thrown backwards against the wall. The drawers were all pulled out, knocked over on the floor. Underwear and socks were strewn about. They must have been looking for something.

As her eyes moved across the dresser, she realized there was something stuck underneath it. At first, she thought maybe it was a pile of clothes or a chair—but then she saw the hand, stretched out, and the wand just beyond it’s fingers. Red curls were rumpled near the shoulder, massaged by the wind that blew freely through the room.

A terrible sound escaped from her as she moved her wand, quickly displacing the dresser and freeing her mother. Her mother’s body, her brain corrected her as it immediately processed what she couldn’t intellectually grasp at that moment. Her thoughts started to fly, and she couldn’t breath. She could see now why Elizabeth was catatonic. As she came to her mother’s side, she instinctively reached for her wrist. There was no pulse. There were no marks on her mom that she could see, and she assumed she’d been hit with a killing curse—and that she’d fought gallantly before succumbing.

She didn’t cry at that moment. She was stunned, holding her mother’s wrist and trying to decide what had to happen next. For a moment she wondered if Elizabeth had done this, but she insisted it couldn’t have been her. Elizabeth had been planning on going out for a drive with Khan when she left, and she assumed she’d just arrived home before her.

She straightened up, trying to think of what should happen next when it became darker. A cloud had shifted over the moon, and she looked up to see if it was going to rain.

It wasn’t a cloud though, and it wasn’t going to rain.

Overhead, the Dark Mark lay across the moon.

 

 



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: 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 twins 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 from the death of their parents dripped with despair and loneliness—emotions that Elizabeth had gotten use to after years of feeling emotionally 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. He had given her liberty, had set her free from the loveless bonds that had hindered her since childhood. This had all 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. 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 on any of her trips to England. Molly had made her some eggs and toast, which sat cold and untouched in front of her, 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 reporter 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 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, each letter of every word drawling as he looked down his nose at Sirius. The man dropped the paper, jumping his feet 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.”

 

Remus turned his eyes to the professor, who looked at them with skepticism and disdain, 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, but 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 Harry Potter was in trouble. Harry Potter.

 

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, old friend. I know you’ll do right by James and me.” Sirius shook his hand roughly, adding with a simper, “You were the best of us.”

 

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.

 

 



Chapter 18: Curious and New
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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 to 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 higher onto her elbows and upward on the pillows so that she could sit upright, 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 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, grinning sheepishly, 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 nearly 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 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 abruptly. Elizabeth blossomed at the forefront of her mind, and her mouth went dry.

 

“Where is Elizabeth?”

 

“She’s here, too,” 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 also could tell 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. They were too much; she didn’t know where to start.

 

But, telling anyone right now would be foolish.

 

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 since there could be other side effects. 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 suspicious 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 said astutely, 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 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 get out of this place.

 

As the conversation on the other side of the divider continued, he grew increasingly 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. He leaned forward again, touching her hair and willing her to wake. She didn’t move.

 

 

He must have drifted off 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.

 

 

The matron wasn’t quite done with her overall examination when the wing began to fill with worried faces. First Aunt Minerva, then the headmaster—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 was received 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 began 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 talk over,” 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 these last few months.” 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 at the prospect of communicating all of her sister’s sins to her aunts.

 

How can I tell them? How can I ever tell them?

 

Loud voices disrupted 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.”

 

The headmaster’s voice was there too: “Minerva, Demeter, please.”

 

Both aunts returned to Evelyn’s side of the partition, both looking shocked and wet. Evelyn realized then that she might not have to tell them, or she might not have to struggle with it.

 

“She—she refuses to see us.” Minerva admitted, fumbling in her cloak for her wand. Demeter started crying, and Remus sprung up to wrap his arms around her. In a softer voice, her eldest aunt added, “She threw her washbasin at us, to prove the point I suppose.”

 

Hermione looked uncomfortably shocked, and Ron snorted in surprise. Harry’s jaw tensed, his eyes darting to the partition. Remus tried to console Demeter, who continued on tearfully, muttering that this was probably another side effect, and that she’d come around.

 

Slowly, surprised eyes turned to Evelyn; her lack of reaction had communicated the one thing she hadn’t been sure how to articulate—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 the following afternoon.

 

Evelyn had been left alone, her family asked to return to their daily routines by the headmaster 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 returned to the social sphere.

 

“Evelyn, there are still a few things that seem to be alluding you.” Professor 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 Demeter has collected have shown that some patients have reported memories returning in their sleep, in a form akin to dreams, or have experienced more significant episodes as you did a few weeks ago.”

 

It sounded largely like good news, but she had hesitated under the earnestness of his gaze. It was the last part that weighed heavy on 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 the Obliviscatur Charm 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 susceptible 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 in Evie’s eyes; her sister’s motives were suspect.

 

Dumbledore’s eyes had twinkled when she fell silent. He had added only, “You’ll need to be conscientious about your symptoms, and vigilant in reporting migraines, dizziness or fainting, or partial recall as these are the side effects best known for predicting the breakdown of the Obliviscatur 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 in his honest way. His mannerisms reminded her of the way that 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. 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. 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 bed on the other side of the partition 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. “You’ve got me there, but don’t tell anyone. Can’t get my fondness for dancing getting back to Marie, or she’ll have me out all the time.” She grinned at him, rolling the name Marie around in her memory. She was relatively certain it was his girlfriend, but didn’t stop to ask, letting him instead continue on.

 

“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. And 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 spent significantly more time together than those few encounters she could currently recall. The realization came like a jolt through her, and she knew that a memory was hazily forming on the edge of her mind. She wondered if she’d dream it into its rightful place in her consciousness that night.

 

He chuckled, looking her over and adding, “I can see you don’t remember yet, and I won’t spoil the surprise. Just know that you’ve got a friend here.”

 

His eyes danced, and she knew that he felt familiar because he was familiar.

 

“Thanks,” was all she could manage in reply.

 

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. Marie’s waiting for me.” She wished he could walk her in, but didn't ask him to. “I expect to see you soon though.”

 

She raised a brow, but didn’t ask about that either, instead turning to hug him briefly. 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 at home in her body in months.

 

 



Chapter 19: Confrontational
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Evelyn stood in front of the mirror in the bathroom connected to her dorm room, wet hair hanging down her back and toothbrush in hand. She had finished her morning shower and had been going through her routine when she was struck by her reflection. She went through the same essential routine every morning, but for whatever reason—whether it was the way the light caught her reflection that morning or the nondescript way in which she moved past the counter—her reflection had made her pause, and the minutes scuttled away while she looked at herself.

 

Since June, she seemed to have lost a noticeable amount of weight. Her hair was several inches longer than she remembered it, and had outgrown its haircut a bit. Anemic circles hung under her eyes. She could remember that over the last few months she had slept much less than had been her habit and had—on some days—stopped eating entirely, but she couldn’t remember having noticed the effects of those behaviors. She just hadn’t felt tired or hungry; abruptly she thought that in reality she simply hadn’t felt.

 

She ran her finger along her cheekbone, feeling its prominence. She thought she looked older, and she wondered if she looked haunted. Am I haunted? It was a dramatic thought, but she felt returned to herself and lavished in this opportunity for self-criticism that had once been an ordinary part of her adolescence—akin to brushing her teeth or inspecting a blemish.

 

A soft knock interrupted her thoughts, and she looked to the door, where she could see a shadow at the foot of the door. She could hear Hermione shift her weight from her left foot to her right foot on the other side. She knew it was Hermione because all the other girls had left for breakfast when she’d entered the bathroom; Hermione had been the only one left, working on an outline of an essay that had been assigned to them the afternoon before.

 

“Coming!” She called out, looking back at her reflection. She muttered a few glamor charms quickly, trying to bring some warmth to her cheeks and hiding the bags under her eyes. Her hair was already air-drying in its natural waves, and she simply cast an anti-frizz spell to help it along. She threw on her robes, and hoped—prayed—that she didn’t look haunted.

 

 

Since returning from her stay at the Hospital Wing, there had been a few murmurs here and there. Evelyn could see students’ eyes follow her as she walked past, could feel their curiosity. Hermione explained that the student body had already been interested in her when she’d transferred, and she probably just hadn’t noticed.

 

Evelyn agreed. It was like the whole school had been veiled to her before, and that the return of her memories had swept that veil away. She didn’t share that bit with Hermione, who already seemed to keep a close watch on her. Her new friend didn’t feel overbearing, but Evelyn could feel how protective she was—so much more so than either Harry or Ron.

 

Whenever the looks of their fellow classmates got a little too intense or the murmurs began to bother her, Hermione would shoot glares at the instigators or loudly dismiss them with a snapping retort. And, for that, Evelyn was thankful. She could now remember the hours she had spent in June and July, locked in her room at Grimmauld Place and refusing to answer the door or return overseas owls, spending hours thinking only of what her life had been and what lay ahead of her. When she tried to sleep, she saw her mother’s face, and—in the rare event she could make it past—she dreamt of her parents’ funeral. Those sleepless, confined days still felt close, making her feel anxious when she let them linger over her.  

 

She couldn’t yet remember who had persuaded her to unlock the door, but she knew that at the beginning of August they had been moved to their aunt’s quarters at Hogwarts for the final month of summer, which had introduced her to the library and to the possibility of the amnesia charm.

 

Now, feeling Hermione bristle next to her when a pair of Hufflepuffs pointed in her direction and looked at each other wide-eyed as they exchanged comments in hushed tones, she realized she’d been dramatic in thinking that friendships were beyond her then. The rest of her grief was valid, but that one kernel—the egging voice in the back of her head that had suggested there was no one left in the world to love her, to be a friend to her—that had been a lie. The realization allowed her to relax into herself, and she smiled as Hermione scolded them, letting her friend handle it.

 

 

Evelyn had spent a few evenings, after completing her homework with Hermione or allowing Ron to best her at Wizarding Chess, lying on her bed with the curtains drawn. She wasn’t necessarily pretending to sleep or avoiding anyone. She was simply trying to carve out time for her mind to work through the memories that had come back to her. More dreams seemed to trickle in each night, and she tried to set aside time to allow her mind to massage the returning pieces into place. It was almost like meditation, and she felt that even if it wasn’t actually helping her, that she was experiencing a placebo effect. She felt more in control of her mind.

 

While that in itself was empowering, there were pieces that had come back to her that she knew couldn’t be wrestled into place. In most instances, these weren’t her memories at all—meaning there was no original place for them to fit back into. They were Elizabeth’s memories and new space, adjacent to her perception of the event, had to be carved out for them. These new memories were the most difficult to mediate in these moments alone. The memories had come at random, spanning their entire life, and each slowly painted a picture of how much Elizabeth resented Evelyn for events that were painful and loomed large in their formative years, like the summer that Evelyn had traveled to England without her because her father had said that if Elizabeth couldn’t get a handle on her grades she couldn’t come for a visit, and for more pedantic moments, like the Christmas where their mother had made blueberry muffins for breakfast and had failed to remember that Elizabeth hated blueberries (which had happened on multiple occasions as their mother had loved them herself, and which always seemed to be such a small transgression that Evelyn never took notice before).

 

Evelyn wished she could have gone about blindly, distanced from her sister like she had been for years without truly knowing why they couldn’t overcome the hurdle that had been erected between them, and never known what Ellie had felt or done. The idea that her sister had played a role in the death of their parents hurt Evelyn. It hurt her like nothing ever had before. Not getting in trouble for smoking in high school, not kissing Evie’s middle school boyfriend, not popping the heads off her dolls when Evie had refused to share—none of these things that Ellie had done had hurt the way these new memories hurt. Ellie had been the secret keeper for their father, and, whether she had been fed false information and manipulated to confess or she had volunteered the information, it didn’t matter. She couldn’t take it back. Their parents were gone, and she had a hand in it.

 

She began to tossed blame. It was her initial instinct to take it all for herself, feeling that it must have been the distance she’d laid between Elizabeth and her that had led her to do the things she had done. In her mind, Evelyn was sure there was a way these things could have never happened—that at least her father could have been saved. If she had only done one thing differently, perhaps the world wouldn’t be the way it was now.

 

Angry tears boiled at the corners of her eyes as she stared at the hangings around her. If she had been alone, she might have screamed or thrashed about, but she didn’t want to draw attention to herself. The other girls hadn’t returned to the room yet, but she expected them soon. So, instead, she pulled these feelings back into herself and tried to continue her meditation, shoving the ends of her sleeves across the corners of her eyes to erase the tears. She felt that if there was a space for these memories to file into, then perhaps she could relax. She could work on acceptance, and get a hold on her grief.

 

Another part of her reared up, though, insisting she wouldn’t even be able to begin that work until she confronted Elizabeth. She wanted her sister to look at her, and tell her that she had done this thing. Evelyn wanted to know why. She wanted one last truth from Elizabeth—didn’t she owe her this? Then Evelyn could look her in the eye and tell Elizabeth that she was dead to her. Then she could come back to her grief and her meditation, continuing this other work.

 

Evelyn hadn’t seen her sister outside of class since she had left the Hospital Wing, and she oscillated between fearing crossing paths with her and wishing for it. If she were to confront her sister, she knew she would lose Elizabeth forever. There would be no chance of reconciliation, no finding their way back to one another after adolescence—as her mother had often insisted would be the case when Evelyn would come home from school frustrated with her sister. Her heart ached at the thought of losing another family member, but that other part of her stormed up again, insisting that this other family member had been lost long ago. There is no chance left; it’s just a matter of acceptance now, that bitter other part of her insisted.

 

These two parts of her warred back and forth until all of the other girls had returned, readied for bed, and turned out the lights. She wasn’t sure how long she spent staring out into the darkness before she fell asleep.

 


 

Though she hadn’t come to a decision about how to handle her feelings towards Elizabeth, she didn’t have to wait long to see what would happen. Leaving Potions class later that week with Harry, Ron, and Hermione, Evelyn found her sister near the classroom, presumably close to the Slytherian common room, walking towards her with Hera Manos and Rhett Addington. Her sister’s two friends seemed to recognize Evelyn before Elizabeth did, reaching instinctively into their robes and pulling out their wands. Evelyn watched her sister intently, following her eyes, as Elizabeth looked first at the newly drawn wands and then at Evelyn. Her mouth dropped into a straight line. She looked put off, which immediately made Evelyn indignant and defensive.

 

They had already passed one another when Evelyn stopped, dropping back from her friends and turning to call out in the direction of her sister’s retreating form.

 

“No. I need to talk to you. Now.”

 

“It can wait.” Elizabeth’s voice was cold, and she said this without fully turning around to address her. She was flippant and proud, and Evelyn’s anger grew.

 

“It can’t wait. Not anymore.” Evelyn growled, reaching for her own wand.

 

Elizabeth turned fully, her brown eyes meeting Evelyn’s with untarnished hatred. Evelyn was startled, dread and anger stirring in her stomach. Such despise had rarely been passed between them at Hogwarts. After their initial closeness, induced by the amnesia charm, had faded, they had moved towards simply ignoring one another except for rare occasions. She could remember now the way Elizabeth had hung beside her in their aunt’s quarters, hollow in the chair and looking away as Evelyn insisted she needed the amnesia charm to be cast to be herself again, to survive. She had been right to think that Elizabeth had wanted to use the charm to distance herself from her family—a family it was now clear she had long been ready to disown. The look Elizabeth sent her was familiar, however, from their prior life when it had often been sent across the halls of the Academy. The charm had repressed it, but it hadn’t erased it.

 

With just that look, Evelyn realized she should have suspected the betrayal. From the beginning of the previous school year, Elizabeth had been deceptive, rude, and aloof. On more than one occasion, their mother had caught her sneaking in early in the morning. She’d been suspended from school for fighting. She’d ended all communication with their father. She was self-destructive, neglectful, and denied every iota of blame. She may have been an easy target, and she may even recognize that she was manipulated—but did she regret it?

 

“Alone.” Evelyn added; it wasn’t a question, but her sister treated it as such.

 

“No. Whatever you have to say can be said here.”

 

Evelyn looked at her friends, each wearing different shades of discomfort. Manos and Addington seemed less surprised by the sisters, and watched Evelyn with bored eyes. She suddenly felt bare.

 

“They know—don’t they?” She gestured towards the two Slytherians flanking her sister. She could feel her neck getting red and her eyes stung a bit. “Did you brag about it, is that it? Spreading the news across the common room like it’s a triumph—like it’s something you should be proud of. Makes you pretty important among those disgusting purists.” Her tone was descending into bitterness, and she impulsively tightened her grip on her wand.

 

Through all the nights she’d spent meditating behind her curtains, she had never once considered attacking her sister. Everything felt different now, upended and unclear.

 

Elizabeth rolled her eyes, “You’ve always been so self-righteous, Evie. Just like our father. I don’t have time for this.”

 

She moved her body as if to turn and go, but Evelyn leveled her wand at her sister. “Don’t you dare mention him.” Her voice shook, but her arm didn’t.

 

“What’ll you do, then? Attack me? Because I mentioned a good-for-nothing father who left our mother because he couldn’t control her? Or, what if I mention our mother who was too weak to get over him? Who made a spectacle of herself everywhere we went?” She scoffed, narrowing her eyes. “Don’t worry, Evie. I won’t mention them again—I don’t want anything to do with them. They did nothing for us. We’re better off without them.”

 

Evelyn’s arm had begun to shake by the time Elizabeth’s mouth snapped shut. Tears blurred her eyes, and she knew she couldn’t cast—she was too emotional, and it wouldn’t be safe. Elizabeth took advantage of the moment, looking at Hera and then letting out a breathy laugh that sent Evelyn over the edge.

 

She began charging down the hallway to the Slytherians’ surprise, yelling, “WE’RE THROUGH, YOU AND ME!” Her voice grew louder with every step, but before she could even close half the distance between them she felt arms wrap around her middle and lift her feet from the ground. Elizabeth laughed again, turning with Hera and Rhett, but Evelyn continued to yell, struggling against the arms around her, “YOU MIGHT AS WELL HAVE DIED WITH THEM! IT’S DONE. WE’RE DONE!”

 

Elizabeth rounded a corner and disappeared as Evelyn’s shouts rang around them echoing until the only sound left was her sporadic breathing and her sobs, muffled by Harry’s shoulder once he finally set her down and she caved into his chest.



Chapter 20: Pretenses
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He handed her a glass filled with firewhiskey, which he correctly assumed was her drink of choice. Elizabeth’s eyes studied him as he looked down at her. As if knowing what she wanted him to do without having to hear her ask, he sunk into the couch beside her.

 

The whole common room seemed to vibrate with music. Another party, another night. It was clear to Elizabeth that the Slytherians loved the typical vices—gluttony, lust, and other substances. Elizabeth had avoided the parties at the beginning of the year, but, after befriending Hera, she had attended most of them. She’d realized quickly that she could handle her liquor better than any of the girls and even some of the guys in her House. She also realized that dancing in the States was very different than dancing here, where she’d surprised a few guys with the way her hips moved across them. By October, she noticed the way Draco watched her, particularly when she was dancing with other guys. Even in the darkened room, she could see his eyes flashing.

 

It only made her want to do it more.

 

After the events of the last few weeks, though, she had allowed Draco to occupy a closer orbit. He seemed somewhat pleased with the change, and she tried to negotiate the shift in their relationship. The shift was partially inevitable as she was now expected to help him complete his task. However, the other part was murkier and may have been fueled by the fact that, at times, she could still feel his lips on hers as they had been on Bonfire Night. Sometimes when she would wake up in the morning, she could swear the taste of him was still in her mouth, lingering there to taunt her. She had hesitated to tell Hera, but eventually had and was met with a bit of squealing and I told you so.

 

When she looked at him sitting beside her just then, her mind began to drift back to his lips and she wondered if she’d like to have his lips on hers again. His kiss had been so different than the ones that had passed between her and Khan. And now, with her memories almost fully returned, she wondered how Draco would fair—if it would be different or the same.

 

“Are you okay, Ellie?” Draco looked at her, and she could feel him observing her with his critical eye. “From what they’ve been saying throughout the castle, whatever happened between you and your sister was pretty shocking. You know He will want to hear about this. If you don’t want to tell Him yourself, I can address it in my next letter.”

 

Elizabeth downed her drink, letting her eyes close as she tilted her head back. It burned all the way down, and she loved that feeling.

 

Draco continued, all business, “I know you’re probably still in need of rest, and my aunt feels that you should not attend the meeting tomorrow night. I agree with her, and I know that she will petition Him on your behalf. Not that you need to worry—He seems to be very sympathetic for your condition. Though, He’s eager to meet with you again. My aunt believes He’ll want a private audience, but I think we should develop more concrete plans before you arrange that.”

 

He was rattling on, but Elizabeth could barely decipher his words from the music. She was bored.

 

“Draco, get me another drink—and let’s talk upstairs.” He obeyed, and she smirked—loving his obedience. She rose to meet him by the stairs to the boys’ dormitory, casting a glance to Hera who was watching them from her place on the dance floor with Rhett. Hera feigned shock before sending her a thumbs’ up. She wondered briefly what her friend assumed may happen, but that didn’t stop her from following Draco down the stairs.

 

The doors were organized youngest to oldest, and, once they passed the fourth year doors, Elizabeth noticed that many of the doors that they passed had school ties draped over the doorknob, indicating occupation. She smirked to herself, following Draco into his room and noting that he did not pause to place a tie on his doorknob.

 

Draco immediately began to repeat the things he had spoken of earlier in the common room, beginning with her confrontation with Evelyn. He handed her one of the two drinks he had carried up the stairs, and his voice prattled on again. Her attention refused to be kept, and she began to walk slowly around the room, examining his side of the space. Slyterians only slept two to a room, and the rooms were small. Draco’s desk sat opposite the foot of his bed with the armoire off to the left. The door to the bathroom was on his roommate’s side of the dorm, which featured a bed, armoire, and desk similarly arranged. Elizabeth was relatively certain that his roommate was Blaise Zabini, and she felt the large mirror that had been fixed over the desk confirmed her suspicion. She turned her attention back to Draco’s objects.

 

“Did you want to keep up any pretenses?” Elizabeth asked coyly, sipping her drink. She ran her fingers across the parchments that were scattered across the desk, eyeing half-finished assignments that she was pleased to see she had already completed. Her fingers roamed over his tie, which had been discarded there next to a quill, and she looked at him archly.

 

He stopped abruptly in his discussion of her sister and how the confrontation should be communicated to their superiors, and his face shifted into a smirk.

 

“Got something on your mind?” He took another sip of his drink, and set it down on his side table, his long fingers lingering around the tumbler. She liked the way he held the glass. He seemed to breathe sophistication, and she looked at him standing there across from her with a hungry glint in his eyes. She wondered how long he would look at her like that; from what Hera had told her, Draco wasn’t one for yearning endlessly after a girl. The rumors were that he’d had plenty. Hera couldn’t say that she had known him to commit to anyone for an extended period of time, though he had his habitual hook-ups.

 

She eyed him carefully, and returned his smirk. “Plenty of things on my mind, but I’d hate to disappoint you as most of them have to do with business. I just thought we’d be less likely to be interrupted if people thought we were busy.”

 

The wild look of disappointment that displaced the look of hunger in his eyes was almost as inviting to her as its predecessor. Her smirk widened into a grin, and she moved towards him, taking a seat on his bed without being asked. She slid out of the heels that Hera had insisted she wear and brought her feet up onto his bed, tucking them under her dress. She tussled her long hair, and looked up at him. He was still standing, and his disappointment had shifted into annoyance. She smiled sweetly, and patted the bed.

 

He made to move towards her, but corrected his path first, taking up the tie from his desk and then smoothly opening up the door and slipping the tie around the external doorknob. She could tell he made eye contact with another boy—probably doing something similar—and the smirk briefly returned to his face before he closed the door and turned the lock. He moved with long strides back across the room, his eyes washing over her as he sat on the bed beside her. He too removed his shoes, but leaned back across the bed in the posture of a Muggle fashion model.

 

“Tell me about your plan for the opal necklace.”

 

He balked at her directness, looking down at his hands, which he’d laced in front of his abdomen, and shifting on his elbow. When he looked back up at her, his posture was more comfortable and his face was set with indifference and pride. It was the expression he sported on a regular basis, and the look in his eye that she felt had been reserved just for her had slipped away. She wasn’t sure if it bothered her or not—this sense of being treated as equal to the rest of their housemates—but she feigned indifference as he began to detail the plan. She nodded along, watching his lips round out words and interrupting to ask questions, to insert herself, or to see where she might be of service. She knew she couldn’t take credit for this plan; Draco had purchased the necklace well before she was instructed to assist him. But, if they were successful, she felt that she could at least say that she had aided in its execution if not its invention—which would please Him. Though, she knew just as well that if they weren’t successful, He would be just as pleased.

 

Voldemort had told her his feelings on the matter explicitly after she was marked. The task he’d given Draco was, at its root, an opportunity to teach the Malfoy family a lesson. While their bloodline made it difficult for Him to extinguish them outright and He leaned on Lucius for certain luxuries, He didn’t feel as though he needed Draco to kill Dumbledore, who was a formidable opponent. In fact, Voldemort had admitted that He didn’t believe the boy capable. Draco was talented, particularly at Occlumency, and had proven a desirable young recruit, but Voldemort could smell weakness on him, the same as his father, and was uncertain of what the boy might produce in response to this challenge. Either Dumbledore was killed or Lucius and Narcissa were—and Voldemort felt confident that either option could be beneficial to Him.

 

For this reason, He had asked Elizabeth to take on part of the task not so much to ensure success but to observe Draco—to get a better sense of the boy and to monitor his work. He hoped that the weakness was something that could be squeezed out of the boy, but it was difficult to enter his mind for more than a fleeting moment so that He could be certain.

 

She’d been reporting back to Him through Bella, and He had admitted mixed feelings to their progress. In a rare direct correspondence, He had told her that He almost wished Draco would fail so that He could kill Lucius. He hadn’t wanted to share these thoughts with Bella, knowing that at times she could be too fragile and could react poorly to the destruction of pureblood families (particularly her sister’s), but He had written Ellie because He trusted her.

 

She had been chosen. His Helen of Troy, He called her, which flattered her for its allusion to beauty and power.

 

Elizabeth wondered how He would react to this latest development, and—with an eye towards the future—she wondered what His plans for Draco might be whether he succeeded or not. He had reassured her multiple times that the result of their efforts would have no bearing on her status or rank. His plans for her superseded this task, the knowledge of which had filled her with pride and eagerness. She wanted to bring Him joy, to increase His trust, and to make reciprocal the feeling of pride. But, at this moment, she wasn’t sure if helping Draco succeed or allowing him to fail would achieve that.

 

For herself, she felt the death of Dumbledore would be more beneficial for their cause than the death of Lucius. So, she asked Draco to start from the beginning, again, and continued to question his plan until she felt that it was ready to be implemented. It was late into the night when she rose from her position on his bed. The torches were burning low, and she wondered momentarily where Zabini was. Draco didn’t seem surprised that his roommate had not returned. She pulled her dress down, adjusting seams and picking up her shoes, her hair falling across her face as she moved about his dorm. She could feel him watching her, waiting.

 

Finally, she said, “It’s a good plan, Draco.”

 

He nodded curtly, standing to walk her to the door. His hand rose to the small of her back, as if to guide her, despite the fact that the door was immediately in front of her and impossible to miss. She avoided his eye, smirking and noting to herself that he must have wanted desperately to touch her. She could feel her body relax against his palm involuntarily, forcing her to note secondarily that she didn’t mind when he touched her.

 

“Hogsmeade then. December, the last trip right before break.”

 

“Should I tell your aunt?”

 

“No,” he paused. They had reached the door, but neither of them moved to open it. “I think we should wait until afterwards, when we can share real news rather than a proposal.”

 

She nodded in agreement, knowing that Bella would want to involve herself if informed prematurely and she didn’t feel that was necessary. “I agree, it may be wise to follow the news home for the holiday rather than allow the proposal to hang there without word until you arrive. Depending on how it goes, at least.”

 

He muttered his agreement, leaning forward to place his hand on the doorknob. He was close to her then—closer than he had been all night—and her face lingered near the nape of his neck, which smelled like faded cologne and whiskey. She heard rather than saw the door unlatch, and the light from the corridor peaked into the room, cutting across Draco’s chest. Her hand moved to it before she could stop herself. He tilted his face to hers ever so slightly, his eyes tired but wild and his lips nearby.

 

Again, she couldn’t stop herself.

 

She leaned forward, allowing her lips to settle against his for a moment. His lips were warm and smooth, and they seemed to meet hers with that hunger she’d seen in his eyes and which she hadn’t felt in any kiss from any person before. She forced herself to retreat, pulling her coyness up around her to shield herself from feeling anything more.

 

“Keeping up pretenses, right?” She murmured, pulling away fully and exiting quickly into the corridor, where she thanked him a little louder before striding towards the stairs.

 



Chapter 21: Knocked Down
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Evelyn flung her body to the right, casting a shield charm and then directing a hex towards Harry. He deflected it easily, lunging towards her with his arm straight and steady. She could see his chest heaving, and as he got closer she noticed beads of sweat collected in the corners of his eyes. She wondered briefly if she obscured his vision, how he would do—but then decided on a different tactic, casting a trip jinx and watching him as he fell, sliding forward and stopping just shy of her wand. She was on her feet again, holding him in place and smiling victoriously. Her own chest heaved, and she lowered her wand, using her free hand to pull him to his feet.

 

“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 swiped beneath his spectacles. 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 once 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. Each night, new memories slipped in, and seemed to only make 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 she made mistakes or one of her 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.

 

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 shame for her impulsiveness and imprudence 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 because she knew she should be more open about what she was experiencing—especially with a witch as brilliant as Hermione. Harry had hinted at as much, in his polite, blunt way. 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 been charismatic and funny, had joked with her. He was the first person to not treat her like a victim, which had initially shocked her, then confused her, and then charmed her. He would come and visit her in her room whenever he had occasion to stop by, 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, dueling, and short runs through the grounds on the particularly bad days. 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 and welcome the family to the neighborhood. 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 exercise of dividing those emotions, she wondered if her sister struggled as much as she did. 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 the room. 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 on occasion. 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 Dumbledore fears that our telling you may lead to another episode, which could be more traumatic than allowing the memory to come back on its own, but we can tell you that it is a very significant event and that it took place after you had arrived in 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 so.”

 

“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 cloak. She wished she had worn longer sleeves underneath, or hadn’t taken it off because she suddenly felt insecure under their identical sympathetic gazes.

 

The sisters exchanged glances before Demeter continued, “Dumbledore fears that this memory may endanger you. That He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named may want this 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, not even the Dark Lord or his followers, 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.

 

“Are you in danger?”

 

“Don’t worry about us, dear.” Demeter smiled, reaching out to touch Evelyn’s arm. Her hand was warm and, for a moment, comforting.

 

“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, empathetic 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 to 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 looks. 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 said in a stricter tone, her distraction gone but her shoulders drooping mournfully. Her body seemed at odds with her professorial tone, and Evelyn felt as if she’d forgotten her homework. 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 locked at the elbows 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. She felt suddenly as if she were a source, being coaxed into complacency by an expert reporter. She felt disgusting.

 

“I can’t be here right now. I can’t listen to this.” She set her cup down with a clatter, and snatched her cloak. The cold feeling was gone, but she hugged the material to her chest to ward off the exposed feeling that was making her skin itch. 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, and the hate that had built up in her sister over the years or how she had to sort through it now. 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 hatred 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’m just now breathing again, and you knock me down with this—first that there’s something stuck in my head that Voldemort might want, might do who knows what for, 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 the robe that was jumbled in her arms. 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. 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.



Chapter 22: Cleaving
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“Want to hear something interesting?”

 

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. She was a generally quiet, intense 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, and 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 to invite 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 the girl yet.

 

These days, everyone was suspect.

 

For this assignment, the class 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 dared to have a full-blown conversation with 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. The result 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 chickadee—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 asking the one question she’d promised she wouldn’t ask. Cocking her head towards him, she asked softly, “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 this explanation 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 are the definitions of cleave? I feel like I’ve only ever heard it used to refer to a split, like a cloven hoof.” “That’s the one,” Serenity nodded, “The other is to adhere closely. Which is great, because these are directions for trimming rose thorns for Amortentia. I just think it can’t have been more ironic.”

 

Serenity smiled toothily as Evelyn chuckled, nodding her agreement. The conversation moved on, and they returned to their essay. The word, however, continued to swirl around in Evelyn’s head the rest of the evening. Even as she tried to meditate behind her bed hangings that night, it kept coming back to the forefront of her mind. Cleave, cleaving, cloven…. It was the perfect way to describe her current state of being.

 


 

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 quickly 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—by at least a full head—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 topic, and then Evelyn ventured a small joke that seemed to break the tension. 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 and their stomachs were empty. 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. Or 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 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 forced 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, the lot all together forming a solemn little caravan through the snow. 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, the 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 stopped in their walk to watch something. Evelyn furrowed her brow at Hermione, but the other girl met her furrowed expression with wide, fearful eyes that startled her. Evelyn looked past Hermione, 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 turned her eyes 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 the resulting 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—and 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 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 eventually replied, “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 Professor 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.”

 

“You weren’t.”

 

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’s voice broke slightly as she spoke, and the wet spots at the corner of her eyes were refreshed with more tears.

 

Evelyn watched her closely, believing her. Hermione looked up from her hands, 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. She swiped at her eyes, and a small smile came to her lips.

 

“I’m still upset with you though,” Evelyn admitted, “And I’m mad at 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 in reality and take things on. After this afternoon, she needed to never feel powerless again.

 

“I’ll be back in a little bit,” Evelyn said abruptly, swinging up in the bed and slipping into her shoes.

 

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 that 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 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 aim their wand at the moon, so that if one can't pull it towards them they might still gain a star. Consider this a star for your bounty. 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!)

 

More soon,

Bella

 

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 irritated.

 

“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 looking down his nose at her with thoughtful drunkenness. The posture would have been more intimidating if he didn’t smell like whisky—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 firewhisky.

 

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.

 



Chapter 23: Break
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December brought with it a feeling of normalcy that Evelyn hadn’t realized she’d been missing. Though Hermione was experiencing an exciting new disgust for Lavender Brown and Harry was a bit obsessed with Draco Malfoy since Katie’s cursing, the castle seemed to be settling into a snowy lull in the final week before break.

 

Nevertheless, Evelyn was still having a hard time sleeping some nights. During those wakeful hours, she would stare at the red velvet canopy that hung around her four-poster bed. Sometimes, she was able to distract herself with the settling of memories that had arrived during the hour or so she’d managed to sleep. Most nights, however, she thought about Elizabeth.

 

She had managed to forgive Hermione and her aunts, and was trying daily to forgive herself. She had pushed on with her new friendships, which now included Serenity and Christian. She had reached out to her old friends in America, who eagerly replied with more empathy and kindness than she felt she deserved. She had pulled her aunts close, regularly writing Demeter and having Sunday tea with Minerva each week. She felt as though she was actively working through her grief, for the first time, and she was starting to feel more herself than she had since June. However, on those nights when she couldn’t sleep, she would wake with a heavy, longing—perhaps even foreboding—feeling.

 

In those dark hours while she waited for dawn, she felt listless. Sometimes, she felt angry. She toyed with the idea of revenge, what would it look like? How it would it feel? Sometimes, she went so far as to draft a plan.

 

Evelyn didn’t mention these listless, angry feelings to her friends, who took happily to her uplifted attitude, which came with the wit and sarcasm that her Aunt Demeter described in one letter as “the missing bit of you that the world couldn’t live without.” Demeter had always had a way with words that Evelyn hoped to emulate.

 

She was seated in the common room on the last evening before break, working on a reply to her aunt’s most recent letter. All of her assignments had been submitted, and she hadn’t needed to pack yet as she would be staying at the castle with her aunt for break. They would be traveling to Grimmauld Place for a few days to celebrate the holiday with the Order, and then were contemplating spending a few days at Demeter’s home in Westminster.

 

Evelyn had noticed that, despite Elizabeth’s constant refusal to join them for tea, her Aunt Minerva still anticipated she would join them for the holiday. Evelyn kept a closed lip when Elizabeth was mentioned, and tried not to let her face show too much. Minerva had noticed that the girls weren’t speaking in the Great Hall or between classes, but after reviewing a few of Athena’s letters from the previous year, she had come to the conclusion that this was normal—and didn’t bring it up to her niece.

 

Evelyn pushed Elizabeth from her mind, turning back to her letter, where she was laying out the holiday plans that she’d talked over the previous Sunday with Minerva, and she added a few repeated assurances that they wouldn’t mind if Demeter’s place was messy or if she had a deadline that distracted her during their stay. As she wrote, Harry came down the boy’s staircase and took a seat in the chair next to her.

 

He was on his way to Grimmauld Place the following morning, which she knew made him much happier than the prospect of staying at the castle or, worse yet, going to stay with his aunt and uncle. He waited quietly until she was done with her letter, watching her thoughtfully but also looking about the room. It was rather quiet and relatively empty, with some students still finishing their work but most in their dorm rooms.

 

“That was kind of you,” she said, setting down her quill and picking up the letter, blowing on the ink to ensure it was dry before she folded it. His eyes came back round to her, and he looked confused until she added, “Waiting so patiently for me to write this novel of a response.”

 

He smiled a little, running his hand through his unruly hair. “Of course, the least I could do.”

 

“All done packing?”

 

“Almost,” he nodded, “You’re lucky, not having to pack at all.”

 

“Not having to pack yet, you mean. I’ll have to do it later, the only perk being that all the other girls will have taken their things away and I can focus only on my own junk.”

 

“When will you be coming to Grimmauld?”

 

“I think Aunt Minnie plans to come on the 23rd or 24th. She is insisting she doesn’t want to be away from home for too long, but I know the truth. She doesn’t like relying on the generosity of others—a self-made witch, you know.” Evelyn raised her brow, knowing that the house belonged to Harry since the death of his godfather. Minerva particularly didn’t like such a favor from a student, and thought it a little imposing that the Order had taken this one thing from a boy who had already given them so much.

 

Harry blushed a bit, forcing out, “And how long will you be staying?”

 

“Just until the morning of the 26th, I think. At least that’s what it seems. I’m about to owl Demeter, and see if she’ll have us that day for a short getaway in Westminster. Then we’ll be back here until after the New Year.”

 

“With no chance to get away, you think?”

 

Evelyn paused for a moment, smiling at Harry. “I think you can spare the holiday, Harry—we can start practicing dueling again as soon as we come back.”

 

He looked at her with a funny expression, and then shook his head, “No, that’s not what I meant—I wasn’t thinking of dueling.”

 

She waited for him to continue, but he seemed lost for words. She could see him thinking, and wasn’t sure if she could give him the time to puzzle it out or if she should jump in with a new assumption.

 

She settled for, “Oh?” and turned her eyes back to her letter, folding it carefully and sealing it. She’d have to walk it up to the Owlery or wait until the morning to send it off, and she wasn’t sure if it was afterhours yet. She turned to look at the clock, and Harry still hadn’t said anything.

 

“Right,” came finally, a little truncated, and she wondered what he was playing at. His face was hard to read in the firelight and she wasn’t sure if he was nervous or just making conversation.

 

“I’m headed to the Owlery, I’ve still got some time until the Prefects are about. Fancy a walk?”

 

Right then, Ron came through the portrait hole, demanding Harry’s attention. They rose together from their seats, Evelyn hanging back with her letter in hand as Harry went towards his friend. It was the first time in over a week that Evelyn had seen Ron without Lavender connected to his face, and, without another word about the walk, she left the common room for the Owlery. Harry, who had planned on accompanying her despite this opportunity for reunion with Ron, only caught a glimpse of her as she disappeared through the portrait hole—and, along with her, his chance to ask her out.

 

 

The next morning, Evelyn came down early to breakfast to stop at the Ravenclaw table and say goodbye to Serenity and Christian, who would be leaving with the others on the train later that morning. When she returned to her table, the post had already arrived and Hermione was holding an envelope out to her. It was shaped like a greeting card rather than a letter, which was relatively unusual.

 

“This came addressed to you,” Hermione said, sipping her tea. “It landed in my potatoes.”

 

Hermione and Harry watched on as she opened up the envelope, which was indeed a holiday card with a glittery dove on the front. In it’s beak was a banner, proclaiming “Happy Holidays!” There was a folded piece of parchment inside, obstructing the message, and Evelyn placed it in her lap before turning her eyes back to the card. Messages were scrawled across it, surrounding the printed greeting—all from her friends in Maryland.

 

Your letters come far too slowly; I hope you’ll take mom up on the offer! – Lacey

 

How did your exams go? I’m sure you did well. As I said in my last letter, you are very missed. The boys aren’t nearly as funny without you. Well, Devon is—but you know I’m biased there. Can’t wait to see you! – May

 

Merry Christmas. We miss you. (Who the hell thought it would be a good idea for you to move so far away?) – Bobby

 

May misses you, and she’s demanding I tell you the truth and say I miss you too. It is the truth. – Devon

 

Come home. – Theo

 

Evelyn read the last one a couple times over, thinking about what it might be like to see Theo again. The drama of their young romance seemed so far away from her life now. Still, she hadn’t realized she had missed his handwriting—all of their handwriting. She’d been so accustomed to seeing it when they shared notes or wrote to one another in class, and there it was, staring back at her. Lacey’s elegant flourishes at the end of her y’s that felt like little bursts of energy. May’s neat, round letters that seemed to march brightly across the page. Bobby’s writing was in all capital letters, a habit he’d had since middle school that made his notes a little easier to read than the other boys. Devon and Theo’s o’s, which were oddly identical, but they’re very different m’s—Devon’s smooth and rounded, Theo’s jagged like little mountain ranges. Each hand was more different than the next, and each indicative of the personality of the author.

 

She gave the card to Hermione, who had been watching her curiously, and turned her attention to the piece of parchment in her lap. When she opened this piece, two slips of paper fell out, and Hermione reached for them to prevent them from tipping onto Evelyn’s plate. She barely noticed the other girl pick up the pieces, though, her eyes skimming the letter rapidly. She recognized this handwriting as well; it was Lacey’s mother’s.

 

Evelyn,

 

My house has not been the same without you this fall, and I know that Lacey has missed you fiercely. So, I reached out to your aunt a few nights ago, and she’s given me permission to borrow you for the holiday. (If that’s okay with you!)

 

I know you had some plans already with your aunts, but Minerva has said that the visit to Demeter can be pushed back to the Easter holiday, which means you can come to us after Christmas and stay until New Year’s Eve. Almost a week.

 

I’ve included an extra ticket as your aunt felt more comfortable with you traveling with a companion, and I’m happy to host whoever you’ve deemed worthy to call a friend—I know you’ve got good taste.

 

In the meantime, we’ll be making your favorite things, and preparing for your arrival.

 

Love,

Miranda Coupe

 

Evelyn’s eyes were round when she finished reading, and she turned to look at Hermione, who was holding the two slips of paper—which were indeed two tickets. She smiled at her friend, exchanging the tickets for Miranda’s letter and looking them over closely. They were for the international floo network, with permission from the Minister of Magic for departure on December 26th and return on December 31st.

 

For a moment, Evelyn was overwhelmed. She couldn’t believe the kindness—or the fact that her aunt, who had said nothing to her about the trip, had already given her permission. She was overwhelmingly pleased that she’d be able to spend the holiday with her new friends, as well as her old, and wouldn’t miss the holiday celebrations at Grimmauld Place, which she’d been looking forward to. In fact, it presented itself so perfectly to her that she could barely believe her luck.

 

“How exciting, Evelyn!” Hermione said, smiling. She had handed the greeting card to Harry, who was perusing it wordlessly.

 

“I almost can’t believe it! A chance to go home and see them all—and Hermione, of course, you’ll have to see if you can come with me.”

 

Hermione looked surprised. “Are you sure? You could take someone else?” Her voice faltered a bit, and it was obvious that she was holding back from suggesting that Evelyn take Elizabeth. The two friends hadn’t spoken of the outburst in the hall or the fact that Evelyn had apparently disowned her sister, but Hermione knew the separation of the sisters was related to the return of her memories—and Evelyn hadn’t felt the need to tell her more just yet. Perhaps she would have if Hermione and she hadn’t been estranged for those few weeks, but since then Evelyn had decided that until her aunts knew she couldn’t tell anyone else.

 

“No! There isn’t anyone else—my friends will love you, and we’ll have such a good time. Do you think your parents will mind?”

 

Hermione shrugged, “I was planning on staying at Grimmauld Place anyway—I’m sure they won’t mind since they weren’t expecting me to begin with.”

 

“Write them and see! Then we can plan properly.”

 

Hermione looked alit with excitement, and began to ask questions that only Hermione Granger would think of. The two volleyed back and forth, and Evelyn didn’t notice the sullen look on Harry’s face, his eyes stuck on the lines from her friends, wondering which one of them was the one Evelyn had alluded to on occasion—the one she called her childhood sweetheart.  

 

 

An hour or so later, Evelyn and Hermione were still going back and forth with their planning when Evelyn walked her friends to the Entrance Hall to say goodbye. Students were heading for Hogsmeade in long lines, towing trunks and cages behind them through the snow. Harry and Ron were walking behind them, talking about Quidditch standings. Lavender, for once, was nowhere to be seen.

 

The group paused in the Entrance Hall near the doors.

 

“I’ll see you all in a week or so.” Evelyn said, looking a little sad at their going. She hadn’t expected to feel that way, but she worried about her holiday with her sister—almost alone in the castle. So few students were staying behind. With the rise in disappearances and murders, many parents wanted their children to come home just so that they could ensure they were safe.

 

She offered Ron a hug, which made him blush a bit as he muttered “See you soon then.” Then she hugged Harry, whose arms were stiff around her but who gripped her tightly. His embrace was comfortable, and she eyed him curiously when they pulled apart, wondering why he felt more distant this morning than he had before. Then she hugged Hermione, who insisted she would write as soon as she spoke with her parents and they could continue planning.

 

The three Gryffindors were about to exit through the doors, taking up the back of the line, when a loud voice cut through the hall, and forced everyone to stop and star.

 

“I am not staying here.”

 

“What do you mean?”

 

It was her aunt and her sister. Evelyn watched the conversation along with the other students who were lingering with friends in the hall. The doors were open, and cold air worked its way through, setting the tone for the conversation.

 

“I’ve been invited to stay elsewhere.”

 

“Elizabeth! I demand you tell me where you’re going—I’m your guardian.” Aunt Minerva looked astounded, and her voice was forced into a shrill hush that resounded in the empty hall.

 

“I don’t give a damn what you are. I didn’t choose you—I wouldn’t have chosen you.” Elizabeth’s tone was bitter and disregarding. Her long blonde hair fell down her back as she moved to walk away, her head held high. She was rude. Evelyn thought about stepping forward to tell her aunt to let her go, but the flabbergasted look on Minerva’s face gave her pause and she suddenly felt guilty for failing to tell her aunts everything she had learned through her remembering. “In fact, consider yourself dismissed,” Elizabeth added flatly, “I’ve found a new guardian, better suited to my needs.”

 

With that, Elizabeth turned away, joining Hera Manos and Rhett Addington in the doorway and stomping onto the grounds with her head held high. Evelyn’s eyes followed her through the doors, where she saw Draco Malfoy join them. A knot in her stomach tightened, and her eyes turned back to her aunt, who was watching Elizabeth go, mouth agape and eyes wet.

 


 

By the time the train reached Kings Cross, Elizabeth felt lighter. She was certain her aunt would continue to hound her for information, but she felt she had taken the first step in shedding the McGonagall clan. She was better off without them. They would only hold her back—and she needed to move forward, to continue working on the task and to build traction among the Death Eater circles.

 

She exited the train with her head held high, her trunk floating behind her. Draco helped her onto the platform, and guided her towards a tall woman standing away from the crowds and holding her purse tightly against her chest with both hands. Elizabeth knew immediately from the flippant gaze and cool features that this was Draco’s mother. She eyed each of the families that passed by on the platform with skepticism, and looked a little disgusted when someone brushed against her on their way towards the barrier. After the person disappeared, her eyes found Draco coming towards her and her face changed entirely, lighting up with maternal pleasure.

 

Draco went towards her, and she received him with open arms, which caused a pink blush to settle on his cheeks. Elizabeth hung back momentarily, turning towards Hera and Rhett who had hung about them as they attempted to find their own parents.

 

“Should I worry about impressing her?” Elizabeth asked quietly, holding her head high still but feeling a little insecure.

 

“No, she should worry about impressing you.” Hera said smugly, leaning forward and kissing Elizabeth on both cheeks. “My father is over there waiting. I’ll owl as often as I can.”

 

Rhett kissed Elizabeth on both cheeks as well, wishing her a happy holiday and then escorting Hera towards her father. She watched as he placed his hand on her lower back. They looked quite posh together.

 

“Mother, let me introduce Elizabeth Castell.” Draco’s sentence drew her attention, and she turned her eyes towards Mrs. Malfoy. She took a few steps forward, lifting her trunk into the air wordlessly and setting it down beside her as she closed the gap between them and extended her hand.

 

“Enchanted,” Mrs. Malfoy said, her voice smooth as ice.

 

“Likewise” was all Elizabeth could muster. She could feel Mrs. Malfoy’s eyes working their way across her, studying her features—looking for flaws.

 

After a beat, Mrs. Malfoy said, “Lucius and I are honored to host you this holiday. We reviewed preparations this morning, and everything was in order. We’ll be hosting the hunt later this week, which will serve as your official welcome to our circle,” she paused, looking briefly at her son, “Until then, you and Draco will have time to work, which has been strongly encouraged.”

 

“That sounds lovely, Mrs. Malfoy. I’m sure we will both benefit from this time together.” Elizabeth did everything in her power to say these things with a smile on her face. Beside her, Draco smirked, and if they’d been alone she would have knocked him in the head. She still hadn’t forgiven him for being such a snob the other night, but she hadn’t had a chance to let him know. He had been on his best behavior since her eruption at her aunt, avoiding her for the majority of the train ride and then escorting her around like a Victorian gentleman as soon as the train pulled into the station.

 

They continued to converse meaninglessly, filling the air between them, as Mrs. Malfoy led them from the platform and through the barrier. She looked even more uncomfortable on the Muggle side of the station, and Elizabeth was surprised they hadn’t found a workaround to having to exit this way. They quickly left, though, and were welcomed into a car by a driver.

 

Elizabeth could feel the magic in the cabin, a sense she had been working to develop with Bella on His orders.

 

“I’ve been instructed to give you this.” Mrs. Malfoy said as soon as the door snapped shut behind them and she had settled into the seat beside her son. She held out a letter for Elizabeth, who immediately recognized His handwriting. She would have been entirely consumed by the letter if she hadn’t been distracted by Mrs. Malfoy, who kept tidying Draco’s jacket, fixing his hair, and staring at him with untamed admiration—all of which Elizabeth looked forward to mocking him for later.

 


 

Evelyn had written a quick letter to Demeter, informing her of the incident between Elizabeth and Aunt Minnie in as few words as possible, before heading to her aunt’s quarters for dinner. The Great Hall would serve dinner to the students who remained, but her aunt had insisted they act as though no one else was there, and they had planned to spend a great deal of time together. Most of Evelyn’s things had been moved into the spare room in her aunt’s apartment, and she wouldn’t have to return to the Gryffindor Tower unless she wanted to.

 

The rooms were quiet when Evelyn entered, and she wondered at first if her aunt had decided to forego their seclusion after the scene that morning. However, she spied her aunt in the chair next to the fire. She appeared to have a drink in one hand, which looked remarkably like firewhisky—though she’d never seen her aunt take anything stronger than wine. She didn’t look up as Evelyn moved towards her.

 

“Aunt Minnie?” Still, no response. “I think Aunt Demeter will be coming along as soon as she can…. I wrote her. To tell her what happened with Elizabeth.” Minerva was quiet still, taking a sip from her glass. When she spoke, Evelyn could tell it was with reluctance. “That was probably best.”

 

“I also received an owl from Harry Potter. Elizabeth left the platform with the Malfoys.”

 

Minerva turned wide eyes towards her niece, and she looked older than she had before. She was silent again for a long time. Evelyn relaxed into the back of her chair, struggling to find the right words to tell her aunt everything she knew. Before she could begin, Minerva spoke.

 

“Your mother and your father weren’t going to baptize you girls, you know. They weren’t going to choose godparents. Our mother, your grandmother, was furious. But, Athena thought the right person would step up to the plate if anything happened to her. And your father wasn’t religious at all, so he felt it was just easier that way. “It wasn’t until Lily and James—Harry’s parents—were killed that they changed their mind. You seemed almost too old to be baptized then, but your mother was so insistent that the priest agreed to it rather than fight.”

 

Evelyn watched as her aunt’s face warmed in the firelight. She was so pleased to hear her speak of her parents, particularly as this was a story she hadn’t heard before. Just then, it felt nice to have a story instead of a memory.

 

“I hadn’t really realized that mom and dad knew the Potters. I knew they were friends with Remus, who was friends with them, but mom never mentioned them.”

 

Minerva nodded, sipping her drink again. “They were very good friends—your mother and Lily the best of friends. She never talked about them much after they were killed. She couldn’t,” Her eldest aunt paused, getting to the dregs of her drink and finishing it off. “I think perhaps she shouldn’t have chosen me. Demeter may have been better for you girls. Demeter wouldn’t have allowed this to happen to Elizabeth.”

 

Evelyn bit her lip, still not certain how to begin. She fumbled with her ideas, finally beginning with, “It wouldn’t have mattered. Elizabeth made this choice a long time ago.”

 

The story came out hard and awkward, and she stumbled through it as best she could. She began with the memories from childhood, which seemed to speak to Elizabeth’s deep hatred for her father and for her, and Elizabeth’s general discontent; then the outbursts at the Academy and the times when her bullying became too violent; then the voice, which Evelyn suspected to be somehow connected to Voldemort or his followers; and then with the memory of her sister being made the secret keeper. Halfway through, Demeter arrived and she was forced to start over. She reached the same conclusion, however, unable to ignore the evidence building against Elizabeth. She told them too of their fight in the hall, and of her conviction that Ellie had wanted to cast the amnesia charm to hide these things—not to suppress her emotions, as Evelyn had wanted.

 

By the end, both of her aunts’ cheeks were wet. Demeter looked angry—betrayed—and Minerva looked deeply saddened. No one spoke for a long time. After what seemed like years, Demeter said, “All this time, you’ve been getting her memories?” Empathy had supplanted the bitterness of anger on her aunt’s face, and she knew that they finally had an understanding of how much more burdensome the return of her memories had been than they could have anticipated. It was an unforeseen side effect, and she was still coping with it.

 

Evelyn nodded. “They’re just memories though. I haven’t gotten anything more recent. I don’t think our minds collected memories the same way during the amnesia charm—everything I’ve received from her is before that, and I don’t think I’ll get anything afterwards.”

 

“So she won’t know that you’ve told us?”

 

“She might suspect it, especially after today’s display. But I don’t think she’ll care. I don’t think she’s cared in a long time.”

 

Demeter nodded, chewing on her fingernails a bit. She did this whenever she was working through something, and the ink that was on her fingers stained the corner of her mouth. “We’ll have to tell Albus and the Order.” Demeter said finally, looking at her sister. All this time, Minerva had said nothing. “There must be something we can do, that they can do?”

 

Finally, Minerva spoke. “Perhaps. Or, perhaps, she’s lost to us forever.”

 

 

 

 


Author's Note: I feel so horrible for taking so long to update! Especially because this chapter has been written, and I've been wanting to get it up. Unfortunately, I've been caught up in a lot of "adulting" lately. Most of it has been good... but some of it has been messy, and difficult, and disheartening. (But, let's focus on the good, right? I'm trying.) I want to thank all of you lovely people for reading and waiting, and for staying with me. Leave a comment and let me know what you think! I've been reflecting a lot of the balance between exposition and dialogue, and want to know your thoughts. 

Depending on the queue, I'm hoping to get another chapter up before the holiday... But if I don't, happy holidays to all of you! You're wonderful, and I hope your season is bright.

More soon, Antigone

 

 

 

 

 

 



Chapter 24: Yuletide
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

When Minerva and Evelyn stepped out of the fireplace at Grimmauld Place on December 23rd, Molly Weasley greeted them, and immediately took some of the packages from their arms and dusted off their shoulders. A fire crackled happily in the hearth behind them, and the house looked warmer than it had over the summer.

 

Molly seemed surprised but pleased by Evelyn, who gave her a brief hug before allowing herself to be shooed away to find Harry, Ron, and Hermione. She could now remember being an unpleasant houseguest over the summer, particularly towards Molly whom she had resented for constantly trying to feed her and mother her. Now that she was in a better place, however, she hoped to right any of the misconceptions that had been established by her bad behavior. She knew it was what her parents would have wanted her to do. These were my parents’ friends, my aunts’ friends, she had thought as she was getting ready that morning for the journey to London.

 

Perhaps more importantly, they were members of the Order.

 

Her aunt had decided to leave on the 23rd rather than the 24th because there was an Order meeting scheduled for that evening. Evelyn knew that the news of her sister was weighing heavily on her aunt, and that she would take the opportunity of the meeting to share the recent revelation. Paired with Elizabeth’s departure from Hogwarts and her apparent stay with the Malfoy family, Minerva was assuming the worst—despite Demeter’s optimism.

 

Evelyn could feel the dread seeping off of her aunt. She tried not to think on it. Whatever the Order decided, she had her own plans.

 

She moved from the kitchen and into the nearby sitting room. The house felt distantly familiar to her, and she was pleased to find Harry reading The Daily Prophet. She was sure Ron and Hermione must be nearby.

 

“Hey stranger,” she said softly, leaning against the doorframe.

 

He peaked around the paper, smiling at her. “Hey, you’re here.”

 

“Looks like it.”

 

“Break been treating you well?”

 

“So far—I wish time would slow down though.”

 

“Really? I thought you’d be desperate to get away to the States.” He dropped his paper entirely, and sat up in the chair, his body language inviting her into the room. She entered, taking a seat in a chair near his.

 

“I’m looking forward to it. Nervous though,” she bit her lip briefly, leaning onto the arm of the chair and looking around the room. “I’m just feeling happy here—I finally feel settled. Does that make sense?”

 

Harry’s jaw was set, and his gaze was intent. It was difficult to read his expression. “It does.”

 

“I’m worried going there will make things unsettled.” This sentence was quieter than the others.

 

Harry was about to reply when Ron and Hermione entered, bickering needlessly. Hermione ended her sentence prematurely, however, and instead exclaimed, “Evie! You’re here!”

 

“Yes!” She said cheerfully, and Harry thought her tone sounded a bit forced. “When did you arrive?”

 

“Only last night,” Hermione said, taking a seat. Her parents had given her permission to travel with Evelyn, and she proceeded to go through a few items that she had packed that she was skeptical about but had felt they may be necessary. On more than one occasion, Ron rolled his eyes.

 


 

Later that evening, Harry knocked on the bedroom door of the room Evelyn was staying in. He had been sent by Mrs. Weasley to inform her dinner was ready, and to encourage her to come down. Mrs. Weasley had said this last part gently, as if she assumed Evelyn would need reassurance.

 

Harry had been first at school and then with the Dursleys when Evelyn and her sister had come to Grimmauld Place, so he hadn’t been around to experience how dismissive and horrible she had been, which Ron had told him his mother had told him and which had been shared only after Hermione had refused to tell Harry her suspicions earlier in the term and he had began to inquire into the Order’s understanding of Evelyn. Knowing what he knew now, her purported dismissiveness and horridness made sense. In fact, it seemed comparable to how he had acted after Cedric’s death. He cringed a little, thinking back on the time and how much more difficult it would have been if he had been simultaneously removed from his friends.

 

It was moments like these that made him feel as though Evelyn’s experiences were akin to his own, and he felt a deep empathy for her, which had grown over the last month. Paired with his respect for her dueling skills and his appreciation for her wit, he couldn’t help but want to know her more. He had been hoping that they might be able to get away from Grimmauld Place and the Order for a while over the holiday. He had imagined them going off, maybe walking through Diagon Alley together or finding a warm corner in the Leaky Cauldron to talk over tea. He had a desire to know her better that felt wholly unfamiliar to him.

 

Something gnawed at him when he thought that she would be leaving in a few days and, when the words of those three guys from America, sprawled across the card she had received their last day in the Great Hall, coming unbidden into his mind, he couldn’t decide if the feeling that gnawed was disappointment or jealousy.

 

“Come in,” her voice came through the heavy door. He hadn’t even realized he’d knocked.

 

“Mrs. Weasley sent me,” he paused, taking in the scene. She was stretched across the bed, the boots she’d been wearing earlier abandoned nearby and her toes, covered in some type of black tights, in the air. She was lying on her stomach reading, and the blue dress she wore had scooted up, the excess fabric wrinkling around her waist. She looked away from her book, smiling at him. He realized immediately wanted to do more than talk to her in a warm corner over tea. Instead, he choked out, “Dinner.”

 

She swung around, taking a moment to pull on her boots and grab a patterned sweater that was flung over a nearby chair. “Is it always so cold in here?” She asked casually as she moved to put on the sweater. She kept missing the arm, and Harry leaned forward to hold it up for her. Her back turned towards him and, as her curls tickled his nose, he inhaled and said nothing. She smelled like treacle tart.

 

“Thanks,” she said softly, turning back towards him.

 

He smiled brusquely, and motioned for her to move out into the hallway ahead of him. As they moved down the hall together, the voices of Ron and Hermione carried up to them. They were bickering again. Evelyn paused at the top of the stairwell, looking over the banister at the couple below.

 

“I think Ron’s upset about her leaving with you.” Harry said softly, leaning onto the banister alongside Evelyn.

 

“Really? But, what about Lavender?” She whispered back, crinkling her brow.

 

Harry rolled his eyes. “That’s a long story.”

 

“Hermione’s been furious about the whole thing, you know.”

 

“I know,” he exhaled. He wondered if he would be too obvious if he let his arm rest against hers on the banister.

 

“A galleon they kiss?” Evelyn said after a few minutes of listening to Hermione berate Ron for being selfish.

 

“You’re on—I’ve been waiting for them to snog since our second year. That was when the bickering truly began.” Harry chuckled softly, eying his friends below. She met his chuckle with a light giggle, and Harry smiled thinking again about how much he would have liked to get away with her, if only for a day. He tried to push the thought away, because he knew if he let it linger there it would quickly evolve from thoughts of them talking to thoughts of him kissing her to thoughts of her kissing him back. He felt immediately that he wasn’t being realistic; it didn’t seem likely that she was interested in him beyond friendship and dueling, and it didn’t seem smart to enter into anything right then. His meetings with Dumbledore had shown him that things were only going to get more complicated moving forward. He knew they both had issues they were working through, and he knew that having to deal with another person, having to worry about another person, would only complicate their lives. Nevertheless, the thoughts kept coming back.

 

He allowed himself to be distracted by Hermione and Ron, the latter ending the argument by throwing up his hands and walking into the kitchen, saying, “You’re impossible! If you’re going to continue on like this, can you at least do it while I eat?”

 

Harry knocked his elbow against Evelyn’s, turning towards her. “Looks like you’re a galleon poorer this time around, Evie.” He pushed himself back from the banister, moving towards the stairs to begin the descent down.

 

“Pity,” she huffed behind him, “I think they’d both be better off if they just went for it.”

 

“Maybe,” Harry paused, thinking it over, “It’s hard to tell. So much is undecided.”

 

“But if he would rather be with her than anyone else?” She crinkled her nose, “Why wait? Especially when so much is undecided! We have no idea what might happen these days.”

 

“Is it that simple?” Harry could feel himself getting a little defensive.

 

“Isn’t it? I hate to be this way, but we could all be dead tomorrow. Hermione’s thinking about it too much, I think.”

 

“Well there’s a lot to think about.”

 

“And a lot to do—there always is.” She smiled, reaching out to touch his shoulder as she steadied herself coming around the bend and towards the kitchen. “That’s not an excuse to hold back.”

 

“They’re not holding back!” He was more defensive than he meant to be, and he knew why—it felt like she was talking directly to him. Perhaps, if she’d shown the slightest interest in him, he would have stopped her there and kissed her in the hall. He wouldn’t have waited another moment. But something seized up inside of him, unsure and hesitant.

 

Evelyn looked slightly surprised, but conceded as they came through the door with a light, “If you say so,” before moving from his side towards the open seat next to Hermione.

 

Harry spent most of dinner scowling.

 


 

Christmas at Grimmauld Place was a quiet affair, though many Order members, including Remus, Tonks, Alastor Moody, Kingsley Shacklebolt, and Professor Dumbledore joined them. Mrs. Weasley made a special dinner, and she seemed pleased to have almost all of her children under one roof—plus so many other people to fuss over. Evelyn loved watching her fuss over Harry, who was bashful about the attention.

 

After they finished eating, there was a small exchange of gifts in the living room and the Order members happily fell into conversation, exchanging old stories.

 

Remus began with stories of Evelyn’s and Harry’s parents, who Evelyn had known to be friends only from her conversation with her aunt a short while ago, but who Harry was surprised to learn knew one another. Remus noted that they had all been friends—himself, Sirius, James, Peter, and Ian, and the four girls, Lily, Athena, Cassandra Savior (who Remus explained was, indeed, Serenity’s mother), and Marlene McKinnon.

 

Evelyn had heard some of these stories before, as Remus had come to America to visit a few years ago and had ended up staying in their guest room for almost a year, working at the embassy with her mother until he was let go once his condition became known. It was then that he decided to return to England and Evelyn had heard he taught at Hogwarts for the following year. Remus was Evelyn’s godfather.

 

She relished the old stories, which seemed to have more details now that her mother wasn’t there to chide him. Interspersed were her Aunt Minnie’s perception of the same events or moments from her own studies at Hogwarts as well as stories from Demeter and Tonks, whose shenanigans seemed to rival the Marauders, as Remus fondly referred to his friends.

 

As the stories grew more outlandish, Evelyn felt herself drawn towards Harry, who had settled into the sofa next to her. Her eyes often caught his when their parents were mentioned, as if there was a secret part to each story that only they could know. Perhaps, if their parents had lived, it would have been true. She liked having that connection with someone; without Elizabeth, she wasn’t sure whom she could turn to with memories of her parents. She knew her aunts would understand and that Hermione or Serenity would be sympathetic, but this was a different emotion hanging between her and Harry—something beyond understanding, more akin to vested interest or even nostalgia.

 

During one particularly engaging story, Evelyn realized her hand had come to rest on Harry’s. She tried to catch his eye, but he was looking at Remus. He hadn’t pulled away, and he didn’t seem to mind. In fact, he seemed to have raised his fingers up in between hers, interlocking them.

 

It was curious, to realize this had happened but to not remember how or when it had happened—as if it had just occurred like a habitual motion. Perhaps what was more curious was how natural it felt to sit there, surrounded by friends and family, and hold Harry’s hand. She felt somewhat self-conscious about it, but she tried to ignore it, which became harder once she realized that Hermione had noticed as well.

 

The party broke apart slowly, with Moody and Dumbledore leaving early, and Kingsley dragging Tonks away, citing an early shift the following day. Aunt Minnie had already gone to bed by the time Tonks reluctantly agreed to leave. Remus, who was also staying at the house, eventually moved into the kitchen with Demeter to open the bottle of firewhisky she had brought with her and to keep reminiscing. Fred, George, Ginny, Ron, and Hermione remained for a while with Harry and Evelyn, telling their own stories and reflecting on the ones that had been shared. Eventually though, the twins departed for their apartment, which was located above their shop in Diagon Alley, and Ginny asked Hermione to help her with taking the gifts upstairs before they went to bed. Ron went in search of a snack, scowling when Hermione insisted he should feel inclined to help his sister. (They were still sore with one another.)

 

These slow departures eventually left Evelyn and Harry alone. The fire was warm, and they could each feel the butterbeer they’d consumed throughout the evening warming their cheeks. Evelyn, who had rose to hug the twins goodbye earlier but who had settled back into her seat in the couch realized that she was comfortably squished next to Harry, though the couch no longer demanded that close proximity. He wasn’t holding her hand anymore, and she wondered if he had noticed it had been there in the first place.

 

“Did you know about our parents? Being friends?” Harry asked, leaning towards her. The fire was still roaring heartily, and the light danced across his glasses.

 

“Aunt Minnie told me just a week or so ago, actually. She was talking about something else, and mentioned your parents. My mother didn’t really ever talked about them.”

 

“They say that thing about the world being small, and I guess it’s so,” he mused.

 

She chuckled, nodding in agreement. “I guess so—I wonder if we met as babies, our mothers getting together to see one another and bringing us along?”

 

The idea seemed to shock him a bit, and wonder settled on his face.

 

“Did I look familiar when you first saw me?” She asked coyly, turning her head purposefully to the left and then the right. “They say babies have excellent memories.”

 

They chuckled again, Harry saying softly, “If that’s true, then we must have never met as babies. I would have remembered that face.”

 

She paused in her movements, her eyes trained on him. They weren’t too far apart on the couch, occupying each other’s intimate space as it were. She could feel his breath, hot on her cheek, and she tried to ignore the sudden sensation that felt like her stomach was upside down. He held her gaze for what seemed like an eternity, his body leaning towards hers.

 

For a moment, she was sure he was going to kiss her and she realized quite abruptly that she felt no desire to stop him. The feeling in her stomach couldn’t be ignored.

 

“Mate, are you two—“ Ron was coming back through the doorway, loud and sudden.

 

Harry and Evelyn snapped back to reality, moving apart. The feeling in her stomach seemed to expand, and she could feel her cheeks heat up more than they already had. She was blushing. Oh Merlin, she thought. She looked at Ron, trying to find the words to make this whole thing seem nonchalant and she noticed that his ears were already bright red.

 

“Oh! Sorry!” He cut himself off, walking backwards through the door. They heard his hurried feet up the staircase.

 

She looked back at Harry, whose eyes were dancing and they laughed a bit, breaking the awkward tension that had worked its way between them. She smiled, noting how lovely his green eyes were in the warm firelight. She didn’t want to, but she stood, feeling the cold floorboards soak through her socks and head straight for her brain, which was oddly sobering.

 

“Another time, I suppose,” was all she could manage before she left the room, her own feet making the same hurried noises up the staircase a moment later.

 

 

When Harry wandered up after her a few minutes later, he found Ron in his bedroom looking sheepish and mildly surprised.

 

“You alright?” He asked.

 

Harry shrugged his shoulders, avoiding Ron’s gaze.

 

“I didn’t know you fancied her.”

 

He ran a hand through his hair, trying to decide how to respond. He knew it was foolish to allow himself to fancy anyone at the moment. He was preparing for battle. Getting involved wasn’t an option, was it?

 


 

Down the hall, Evelyn couldn’t sleep. She wondered briefly if Hermione was still awake, and if she might be able to help her think through this. Harry had almost kissed her. She was fairly certain she hadn’t imagined it, that if Ron hadn’t arrived it would have happened, and that, perhaps more importantly, she would have enjoyed it. (Unless he was a terrible kisser, which she felt certain couldn’t be true. His lips were too nice to be bad, she mused.)

 

She felt too warm in her bed to venture out, just to risk having to wake Hermione. They were leaving early the following morning; it could wait, she assumed.

 

She tried briefly to conjure up Hermione in her head, and to think of what her friend would say to her. If she expressed her fears that her relationship with Harry may be like her relationship with Theo, Hermione would have dismissed her. She could imagine her saying I haven’t met Theo of course but from what you’ve told me, I can tell they’re quite different. I don’t think you would have to worry about that.

 

Nevertheless, Theo had left messy footprints behind that she couldn’t ignore, and, since leaving Maryland, things had only gotten messier. Was it even the right time for something like this?

 

I’m not sure. Logically, no, it’s a terrible time. But is that a good enough reason? Hermione-in-her-head responded.

 

Evelyn flipped onto her stomach, trying to get comfortable and shove these thoughts from her mind. She thought about their conversation about Hermione and Ron, and how easy it had been to be open-minded about another couple coming together at this time. She thought about how guarded and defensive he’d been, which didn’t surprise her as much now as it had then. These thoughts churned, keeping her up well into the night, and each time coming back to the same conclusion.

 

She wished she had kissed him. She couldn’t help herself. The argument she’d presented to Harry for Hermione and Ron was how she felt. If there was even a chance he was as interested in her as she was in him, she knew they should go for it. Before it was too late.


 

 

 


Author's Note: I'm currently writing chapters thirty-four and thirty-five of this story, and it's refreshing to be posting these initial chapters to see where Evelyn was and to know where she is going. I'm trying to balance the drama and action with these more lighthearted chapters, especially as the feelings between Evelyn and Harry grow, and I would love to know what you think of the balance! The next chapter is dedicated entirely to Elizabeth, who is having quite the time at Malfoy Manor. Can't wait to share it with you all! Always, Antigone

 



Chapter 25: The Wild Hunt
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“I don’t like it.”

 

“I’m sorry, miss, but this is the dress—“

 

“I know,” Elizabeth scowled, looking down at the witch who was stooped next to her examining the hem of the garment. “But I don’t like it.” She emphasized the last four words, letting the syllables come out condescendingly slow.

 

The seamstress was a meek woman, and her voice was small when she replied, “I’m sorry, miss.”

 

Before she could offer anything more than her apologies, Elizabeth cut in. “I want it fixed. Now.”

 

“But, miss, we don’t have time!”

 

“You’re a witch, aren’t you?”

 

“Well, yes, but—”

 

“But what? Fix it.” Elizabeth was frustrated, and she knew the woman could feel all of that negative energy directed towards her. She knew she was being a snob, but the seamstress was feigning incompetence—and they both knew it would only take a bit of spellwork to fix the dress. She looked at her reflection again, and knew she was right. It needed to be perfect.

 

The dress was for the celebration the following day at Malfoy Manor. Draco had shown her the guest list, going through names to give her context. As far as she was concerned, everyone she needed to impress was going to be there. Perhaps, most importantly, the evening would allow her to have her first private audience with Him since her marking, and she needed Him to feel confidence in her. How could she be expected to do that if she didn’t feel confident in herself? The dress would help. The dress she could control.

 

Still looking at herself, she began to list the changes she’d like to see: “I think it should be black, but stunning black—not dull black. Perhaps something embroidered and jeweled at the neckline or waistline for emphasis. A classy amount of skin, as this is a cocktail dress. Something that feels powerful, in terms of silhouette.” The witch was listening intently, eying the cream colored A-line cocktail dress that she had been instructed to make for Elizabeth. The woman who had ordered it had said the girl should look pure, innocent even. The dress the girl was describing now sounded nothing like that.

 

“Miss, you’re sure? That’s very different from the original order.”

 

Elizabeth turned from the mirror, and nodded icily. The seamstress looked a little weary, but began to move her wand with a shaky hand. She could feel the material transforming on her, but she didn’t allow herself to look until the witch said that she was finished.

 

Elizabeth turned back around on the pedestal that had been placed in her bedroom at the manor, and looked at her reflection in the large mirror that leaned up against the wall. The satin cocktail dress was midnight black with a thin line of diamonds stitched into the waistline. The neckline was just shy of plunging, and the dress was fitted to her body, stopping at her knee. She looked a little older than she was; she felt powerful and mature.

 

“You’re dismissed,” she said, smiling at her reflection.

 

 

Elizabeth careful stored the dress in a garment bag, and placed it in the armoire in the bedroom, where she had unpacked her belongings after her arrival. She then reluctantly returned to her plain dress and tights. Shortly after she was finished dressing, a knock came to her door and she called out to indicate it was all right to enter. Draco was there, as he was most days, staring into the room with eyes on fire. Every time he looked at her in that bedroom, she knew he was thinking about her in that bed, in this house, and how he felt about it.

 

They had spent many of their days discussing his progress with the vanishing cabinet, and had even gone to Knockturn Alley to see its mate. The library at the Malfoys offered a small collection of books on magical objects, and they had been researching the mechanics of the cabinets in an effort to see how they might repair the set. She felt confident in this plan, though Draco did continue to think of different ways in which they could get to Dumbledore. She kept reminding him that the necklace had been a bust, and that they should focus their energies on this plan, which was much more direct and didn’t hinge on people they couldn’t control acting in the ways they hoped they would. When she’d make this point, he’d scowl and then reluctantly concede—until he came up with another option.

 

She felt strongly that this was driven by fear of failure, which she could understand.

 

“All done?”

 

“Yes, though it wouldn’t have taken nearly so long if it hadn’t been for that incompetent seamstress.”

 

“She did look a little kicked when I saw her being escorted out by the house elf. What did you do to her?”

 

“I didn’t do anything to her,” Elizabeth objected, moving towards the doorway and closing the distance between them. He never entered the room unless she explicitly asked him to, and she wondered whether this was an instruction that had been given to him from his father or if he was worried that if he came into the room he wouldn’t want to leave. “I just told her what I wanted, and that I expected to have it.”

 

Draco chuckled, pushing a strand of her hair behind her ear. It had fallen into her face as she walked across the room. She let his hand linger on her jaw for a moment before leaning back against the doorway, opposite him.

 

“Did you need something?” She asked.

 

“I came to tell you that my parents have gone out for the evening. They said dinner would be prepared for us, and that we should relax because tomorrow will be very busy.”

 

“Dinner will be served at seven, I assume?” She asked, and he nodded in response, allowing her to pose the next question on her mind, “What should we do with the next hour then?”

 

He smirked in reply, and she could see the thoughts spinning in his mind. He hadn’t tried to kiss her since she had slapped him in the common room before break, and he had been very reserved—not just in his reluctance to enter her room, but while they worked together as well. Perhaps that was just who he was at home, she considered, but she suspected it was based in something else that he hadn’t shared with her.

 

“I could think of a few things,” he muttered, bringing his hand back to her jaw. She didn’t pull away. She had spent a lot of time thinking about his hard lips on hers by the fire, and how angry he made her.

 

“What might those be, Master Malfoy?” She smirked a bit, using the title the house elves used.

 

He took a step forward, closing the gap between them, smirking as he did. “I was told to keep my distance, but I’m not sure I can do that if you’re going to call me master.”

 

 

After dinner, they found themselves in the drawing room sitting close to the fire. Draco had arranged cushions on the floor after Elizabeth complained of a draft, and their legs were tangled together, competing for space under a blanket.

 

“What will tomorrow be like?” She asked quietly. Her eyes were on him, but he was looking away from her and into the fire. The light danced in his eyes, and he felt far away.

 

“Everyone will arrive early in the day, and the men will separate from the women for a light meal and the hunt. The women will stay here, along with any children. I’m not quite certain what the women do, though I think it’s mostly talking.”

 

She sighed, knowing she would be relegated to this group. “I’ll be with them then?”

 

“I assume, though Aunt Bella may have different plans for you—she doesn’t often do well with sitting and talking, and I can’t imagine you doing well with it either.” He didn’t look away from the fire, but he smirked. He was thinking of her.

 

“You’ll hunt? That doesn’t seem to suit you.”

 

“It’s my duty.”

 

“What happens after the hunt?”

 

“We dress for dinner, and then there will probably be cocktails while the Dark Lord holds a few private audiences.”

 

“He doesn’t attend the hunt?”

 

Draco shook his head, “Only on rare occasions. My father has said that he participated often when he was younger, before the fall, but since then, no.”

 

“Is that when we’ll have our audience?”

 

“I assume.”

 

“He’s asked to meet with just me as well.” She said softly, and Draco finally turned towards her. His expression in that moment was unreadable. He didn’t say anything until she continued with another question. “After? We’ll dine, I assume?”

 

He nodded slowly, breaking eye contact and turning his eyes back to the fire. Whatever had come over him had passed. “And then there will probably be dancing. That’s the part you should be most worried about, I think.”

 

She raised a brow, “Really?”

 

“That’s when the men make their moves. That’s when the power plays come.”

 

She let the silence stretch between them for a while, turning her eyes to the fire as his were. The flames danced in front of them, and she could feel herself growing more and more comfortable with him. Then, she asked the question she’d been holding back since he’d kissed her in the doorway, since they’d broken apart for dinner, since he had begun to move his legs against hers under the blanket like he knew her body.

 

“Draco,” His eyes came to her but she kept staring straight ahead as he had. “What did you mean when you said you were told to keep your distance?”

 

He was quiet for a moment. “When we arrived, my father told me to keep my distance—to be respectful and productive, but to keep my hands to myself. He had heard rumors that I’d been courting you at school, and he said that it couldn’t continue.”

 

She turned her eyes to him then. “Don’t I meet the Malfoy family standard?”

 

“It’s not that.” His eyes met hers and his stare startled her. “The Dark Lord said you’re not to be touched.”

 


 

The following morning happened just as Draco said it would. As the men prepared to leave, the women gathered near the fountain in the courtyard to see them off. The men who had otherwise seemed ordinary upon their arrival had transformed into huntsmen, huge on their black horses. Black hounds huddled around, a few howling into the cold Wiltshire air. Elizabeth had wrapped herself in a woolen winter cloak, and had chosen to keep close to Draco and Rhett, who had arrived with his parents. Hera was there as well, and was standing near her father towards the back of the group. They kept exchanging glances, and Elizabeth realized that, for her friend, this was just another holiday. This was normal.

 

Before mounting his horse, Draco leaned over to Elizabeth and said softly, “Wish me luck, darling.” His gloved hand came to her jaw again, and she smiled despite herself.

 

“Don’t call me darling.” She replied, walking away from him but not breaking his gaze until he was forced to look away to direct his horse. She watched his retreating figure until he disappeared beyond the yew hedge.

 

Narcissa found Elizabeth in the crowd as the women moved back into the entrance hall and into the drawing room. “Did he seem nervous?” She asked politely.

 

“No, though he rarely does.” She said, smiling toothlessly.

 

Narcissa nodded, pursing her lips in a way similar to how Draco did when he was mulling something over. She was about to say something when Elizabeth saw Bella coming towards them, moving against the flow of women. It was the first time she’d seen her that day. Bella kissed her sister on both cheeks, holding her hands tightly, before turning towards Elizabeth and embracing her briefly. The gesture seemed odd for someone like Bella, but Elizabeth accepted it nevertheless. She was fond of her, the way she expected she might have been fond of a sister (other than Evelyn).

 

“I’ve come to steal you away,” the older woman admitted, placing her hand on Elizabeth’s shoulder. “We’ve got a bit to discuss before this evening. I hope you’ll excuse us, Cissy?”

 

“Of course,” Narcissa nodded, smiling in a tight, polite way and moving away from the pair towards the center of the drawing room, where she began to say a few words of welcome while Bella took Elizabeth’s arm, and steered her away. She didn’t say a word to the younger woman until they had entered into a large bedroom near the main hall, where an anteroom was prepared with two chairs and a blazing fire.

 

Bella gestured towards one of the chairs, and Elizabeth seated herself on the edge, watching as Bella summoned a house elf and ordered refreshments. She too seated herself, then, and proceeded to cut right to it.

 

“As you know, the Dark Lord has requested a private audience with you this evening, and I thought it might be beneficial for us to spend some time together discussing what this audience may entail.”

 

Elizabeth relaxed into the chair, asking, “Is this audience you’ve alluded to separate from the one that I’m meant to have with Draco?”

 

Bella nodded, “Yes, there are a few topics he’d like to discuss without my nephew present. He’s been particularly guarded about this, I’ll admit.” Her tone took a dive that conveyed her frustration, but she continued on. “But, He has made it clear that He has great hopes for you.”

 

“I have suspected that,” she admitted, looking at her hands and wishing she had a cup of tea—or something stronger—to distract herself with. “Based on your letters and His.”

 

“He’s written to you?”

 

“Only on a few occasions.” Bella’s face said more than she could have possible said aloud, and Elizabeth tried to ignore the expression. “I feel as though I’m held above Draco, and perhaps other younger members, but it’s unclear why. Draco was furious about it to be honest after we received letters following the cursing of Katie Bell.”

 

Elizabeth blushed a little self-consciously. She felt she could be candid with Bella, who she recognized as a high ranking member of His inner circle—if not the highest-ranking member—and who she respected as a mentor. As she was also Draco’s aunt, she knew that she had hopes for his success as well. (Though she knew better than to acknowledge that the main reason for the direct correspondence was that He was contemplating killing her sister and brother-in-law; she would never betray Him.)

 

Bella nodded, smiling. “Draco will take issue with your ranking above him; that doesn’t surprise me. He is like his father and his uncle frankly. It’s easy for pureblooded men to feel as though they should outrank the women around them. But the Dark Lord doesn’t feel that way. He recognizes the power in women like you and me.

 

“As for why he feels this way about you, I know it stems from multiple places. He has indicated that he can sense power in you, and that He intends to focus our energies on fostering that power—His and mine. He also feels as though there is a kinship between the two of you. Those were His words. He refused to elaborate, but I expect that He will later this evening when He meets with you.”

 

“Well then,” Elizabeth conceded, pausing as the house elf entered with a cart laden with tea and small plates. The plates were covered in cheeses, crostini, nuts, fruit, and dried meats. She continued as soon as the house elf excused itself. “I look forward to meeting with Him.”

 

“You should. Very few in your position have been received this way, and He has repeatedly honored you. I want to stress this to you—as I recognize you’re unlikely to know the ways in which these circles have historically moved.”

 


 

While the women continued to socialize in the drawing room and the men hunted, Bella and Elizabeth practiced sensational magic. Once Bella felt as though she had made progress, they also practiced some wandless and nonverbal magic. Bella was satisfied by the time they heard the heavy footsteps of men in the entrance hall, and said that she would report to Him that Elizabeth’s letters had been accurate in tracking her progress and that, with continued work, she may be very competent in all areas by summertime. She felt that depending on how the conversation went that evening she might expect to be offered a few private lessons by the Dark Lord Himself.

 

The whole experience was humbling, and she parted from Bella quietly to return to her room and dress for dinner.

 

 

She was preparing to exit her room when a familiar knock came, and the door opened to reveal Draco. He was wearing dress robes that had been tailored so well that they seemed to move with his body. The hunt had brought ruddiness to his cheek that made him look slightly more rugged—slightly wilder—and she felt something clench and churn inside of her as she took him in.

 

“You look good,” she said quietly, smiling a bit as he reached forward and put his hand on her jaw. The gesture was familiar now, and there was a piece of her that relied on—and reveled in—the familiarity that had arisen from this private time together in this place outside of Hogwarts, where they existed separate from the people they had to be within those walls. This rush of feeling caused her to add, “Perhaps we should stay here in this room, hidden away for the rest of the evening?”  

 

“I wish that were an option.”

 

They both knew it wasn’t, and she took the arm he offered her and allowed him to escort her to the ballroom. She said few things as they walked, still feeling the quiet weight that she’d carried with her since her conversation with Bella.

 

“Nervous?” He asked just as they approached the ballroom. Laughter and music could be heard, and warm light spilled into the dark hall.

 

“Perhaps,” she admitted, “I think it’s more than that though.”

 

His look was quizzical, but she didn’t have time to elaborate. They were at the doorway and eyes were turned towards them, a few people turning to Draco near the door to shake his hand. Her arm left his, and the feelings dissipated. She was floating near his side until she saw the crowd part and Hera coming towards her. She took steps towards the friendly face, and noticed an arm outstretched towards her.

 

“Hurry, drink,” her friend joked. “These things are miserable sober.”

 

She smiled, taking a large sip of what was definitely straight firewhisky. “Where were you this afternoon? I had to listen to my mother talk to these women without anyone to exchange annoyed glances with.”

 

“I was with Bellatrix.”

 

Hera nodded. She knew they corresponded regularly, but she didn’t know much more beyond the rumors that were floating about Draco and Elizabeth’s work. They were all rumors, and Elizabeth had refused to confirm or deny anything, though she knew her actions didn’t do much to conceal the truth. Hera knew they were working on something—she just didn’t know what. She was sure the girl would be shocked if she did know, and she wasn’t certain how her friend would take it. She’d hold off as long as she could. At least until the cabinet was functional.

 

“Where’s Rhett? I thought for sure he’d be hanging off of you.” Elizabeth changed the subject, motioning towards the strapless cocktail dress Hera was wearing. It was black like Elizabeth’s, fitted in the bodice and flaring out from the waist. It was much shorter, and the heels she had paired with it were much taller.

 

“I thought he’d be hanging off me too,” she admitted, “But I haven’t come across him yet. I swear everyone I’ve ever met is in this room.” She was right; the ballroom was full of people. The men were wearing rich dress robes, and the women cocktail dresses in every style imaginable. Conversations flowed as easy as the firewhisky, and she noticed Narcissa and Lucius had found their son and they stood together in a small group on the other side of the room with another couple and their daughter. She wondered if this was a girl that Draco might be interested in—might have already been familiar with. She wondered if this was a girl that Draco was allowed to touch rather than stealing moments with hesitant hands and angry kisses.

 

He caught her staring, a small smirk coming to his lips, and she turned away after holding his gaze for a moment. Rhett was walking towards them, and soon they were in conversation with other people, and she was received with niceties and smiles. People came and went from their circle, eyes alighting on her, as some were familiar with her name or her work. A few congratulated her on the cursing of Katie Bell. One man looked at her critically, whiskey on his breath as he said, “I had no idea the girl who accomplished that cursing was so beautiful.”

 

She smiled coyly, replying, “I’m happy to admit I’ve got as much brains as I’ve got beauty.”

 

“Then you must be the brightest witch in your year.” He continued, leering a bit and leaning towards her. She realized then that these must have been the plays Draco warned her of, and she noted too that this must have been mild as she was sure this man knew just as Draco did that she wasn’t to be touched. Her eyes drifted to Hera, who wasn’t untouchable. Rather, she was scowling openly at a man who was standing next to her and cupping her backside. Rhett looked like he was about to throttle the man, but as it was clear he was outranked he held back.

 

Elizabeth was relieved to see Bella coming towards her. She didn’t even feign sweetness when she caught sight of the man she was talking with, a look of disgust settling on her face. “Excuse us, Rookwood. Miss Castell has been summoned by the Dark Lord.”

 

Bella led her out of the ballroom and down the hall, into a bedroom chamber similar to the one they had shared earlier that afternoon. The anteroom was prepared in the same way with the Dark Lord seated with his back to the door and Peter Pettigrew hovering nearby. Elizabeth gave him a look of disgust; she hated the way he always lingered around, sniveling and gross.

 

“Thank you, Bellatrix,” His voice came smoothly across the room, and He rose to greet her as she moved to the side of His chair. “You may go.”

 

Elizabeth knelt before him, as Bella had told her to, and when He offered His hand to her, she place hers in His without looking up. His hand was cadaverously cold. She heard the latch of the door click into place behind Bella, and the only other noise in the room was the wheezing breaths of Pettigrew.

 

“Rise, child, and sit. We have much to discuss.”

 

She did as she was told, taking the seat opposite Him and waiting patiently to be spoken to. She had habitually been an observer, and it wasn’t difficult for her to sit under His gaze and wait. She sat tall, poised to begin. She took a moment to recognize the magic in the air, and let all the sensation of its power wash over her, as she had practiced earlier.

 

“Yes, the room is filled with rare magic—it’s my doing.” He spoke, and she knew He was in her mind, reading her thoughts. She let Him take up space there, relishing His presence.

 

“I assumed,” was her soft reply.

 

“This type of magic comes with great study, study which I intend to offer you. If you are ready and willing, Elizabeth.”

 

“I am.”

 

“I have looked into your mind and know that you are being truthful, but I call you here tonight to ensure that you understand the ramifications of this offering. It is not a simple gesture. Yet, when I look into your mind I know that you are capable of mastering the magic that I have mastered—that with my guidance you could lead as I have led. “Thus, in the event that I need a successor, I have chosen you.”

 

“You believe that you may need a successor?” She had many questions, but it was this one that came first.

 

“I am immortal, Elizabeth. I do not believe that I need a successor, but I do believe that it is imperative that my line is preserved. I have done other deeds to ensure this—but you present an opportunity. Do you know the depths of your talent? Can you articulate your loyalty to me? Have I not engendered a kinship between us that displaced all others, even those of blood? I know it to be true, your mind tells me, as do your lips and your letters. You and I have much in common, and your power is of my own. Let me be a father to you, and you an heir to me.”

 

It felt right, then, to kneel before Him again, and to place her hands in His lap, holding His hands again. “My Lord, thank you for this honor.”

 

“Do not kneel before me. Rise, child. You shall be my sub-equal, stationed at my right hand as Bellatrix is stationed at my left.”

 

She did as she was told, her face flushed and her heart rate increased. She knew not how to thank Him. For so long she had yearned for a father who wanted to raise her, to nurture her—and here was this man, this powerful wizard, who wished to do that for her.

 

“You do not have to thank me. It is an honor to take his place.” The Dark Lord said softly, again reading her mind.

 

“You will continue to work alongside the Malfoy boy, and will report regularly to Bellatrix what you have accomplished. If you feel that you need to contact me directly as news may upset her, particularly if the boy is floundering, then do so. I will guide Bella in her responses, and will arrange for lessons—most likely in the summer when you are away from the school, and when I anticipate many of my current projects will have reached their goals. You can plan to make your home with me or my followers moving forward, as you have this winter; I assume this will suit you as I heard of your dismissal of your guardian.” His face twisted into a smile, and she felt pride. She nodded. “I will introduce you to my followers this evening, and will establish you in their circles. And, when the time comes, I will arrange for your betrothal.”

 

“My betrothal?”

 

He nodded, His gaze penetrating. “As any father would. It is the goal of all pureblooded families to continue on, and I expect you to do the same—with a man suitable to your rank.”

 

“You will do all of this—for me?” She asked softly.

 

“I will take care of you.”

 

His face was solemn, and she believed Him. She believed every word, and her heart hardened with determination to serve Him and pride of place. She wondered still why it had been her, but she didn’t ask. Instead she trusted. He would tell her when the time came. He would guide her. He would care for her.

 

 

It was not until very late in the evening that all the guests had gone. Elizabeth could still feel herself glowing, thinking on her private audience with the Dark Lord and His introduction of her. He did not yet venture to call her His heir outright, but He did use words and phrases that emphasized the importance of her role in His plans for the demise of Albus Dumbledore and the conquering of the Wizarding World. She could still feel the eyes on her, the ones that had followed her all evening, as different men and women had tried to find excuses to introduce themselves (and, very often, their sons). When she wasn’t with Bella, she had kept close to Hera and Rhett, who helped her navigate the crowd and had kept her supplied with drink.

 

She hadn’t seen much of Draco after their private audience, which had mostly been a discussion of why the previous attempts had failed. Draco had insisted beforehand that he didn’t want to discuss the cabinet until they had successfully repaired it; until then, it was just a theory, and he knew that theories would not be tolerated. The Dark Lord was curt and at times dismissive of Draco during their audience, which she was certain was particularly humbling for him in front of her. As the meeting went on, she noticed the way his knuckles tightened around the arms of his chair. She wished she could reassure him, to tell him that it was safe to have this conversation in front of her—that she didn’t think less of him because of it—but she didn’t want to show that side of herself to the Dark Lord. It was too vulnerable. So she sat steely in the chair beside Draco, only speaking when spoken to.

 

She had begun to undress when that familiar knock came to her door again. Picking up a black silk robe, she tied it hastily over the black lace slip she’d worn beneath her dress and went to the door. She held the door open hesitantly, checking to see that it was indeed him before swinging it open further.

 

“There you are,” she said softly. He looked tired, though she noticed immediately he was holding a bottle of firewhisky and two glass tumblers.

 

“Invite me in.” He said gruffly, his eyes too soft to match his tone.

 

“Draco, would you like to come in?”

 

He smirked in response, nudging past her and briefly grazing her jaw with the hand that held the bottle.

 

He quickly set his wares on the floor near the fire, then grabbed the decorative pillows from her bed and fashioned them a spot near the hearth that looked comfortable enough. Her head was already floating a bit, but she felt she couldn’t deny him this time—he seemed so earnest, stooping in the firelight to fix pillows.

 

“Where’d you disappear to all evening?” She asked, moving towards him after pushing the door closed. She was satisfied with the sound of latch clicking into place, but wondered if she should lock it. Then she wondered what that might suggest, and decided against it.

 

“My father wanted a few words after our audience, and then my mother paraded a few girls past me.” His tone was bitter. “I see you didn’t save me a dance.”

 

“I didn’t dance at all. I was too busy being introduced to nearly everyone—particularly the ones with sons.” She rolled her eyes a bit in the hope of offsetting any jealousy. “Rhett and Hera kept me company.”

 

“Sweet of them,” he said shortly, pouring generously into the glasses. He picked one up, handed it to her, and held his out to her. “Cheers,” he paused, “to the coming out of the heir of Slytherian.”

 

The liquid caught in her throat and she locked eyes with him over the glass rim. He was staring back at her intently, but having more success getting the drink down. His glass was empty when he lowered it from his lips. She pulled hers away, still half full, and watched him as he filled his again and topped hers up.

 

“Who told you?” was all she could muster.

 

“My father.” He was still staring at her, but his eyes weren’t cold. He wasn’t angry. She wasn’t sure what she had anticipated his reaction to be, but this wasn’t it. “It’s why I’m not allowed near you unless asked, why my father hasn’t been able to look you in the eye since you arrived—have you noticed? It’s why it’s okay for you to be apart of a failing plan.”

 

Perhaps that last part was said with some anger.

 

“I don’t know why it’s me,” she whispered, drinking more and feeling her body lean towards Draco as if they were conspiring together. Perhaps they were—perhaps that was what this had always been: conspiracy and occasional kissing.

 

“I know what you’re thinking,” he said after a few moments, “He’s not the only one who can read minds, you know, and it’s been more than that for me.”

 

She hadn’t even felt him there, in her mind, and she hurried to push him out, blushing.

 

“I’m serious, Elizabeth. There’s something about you, I can’t—I don’t know what it is.” He finished another glass and poured again, his face beginning to flush. “My father asked me to watch you at the beginning of the year, to learn everything I could. And when you were assigned to aid me, I was furious, but perhaps that was just masking. I can see what he sees in you. The power. What’s worse, I think, is you know it’s not just magical. It’s other, larger.” He was stumbling a bit over his words then, and he broke eye contact, his eyes wandering down the length of her neck and across the robe that had started to slip open. He was right though; in that moment, in any given moment, she felt powerful. It was a feeling as though she constantly had the upper hand. He kept talking, but she stopped listening for a moment, focusing instead on the sensation of magic in the room.

 

“Elizabeth,” he called her back to him. Her eyes came back into focus, the sensational magic still lingering on her. “I want you.”

 

She felt a little shocked by his directness. She began to fumble through her response, but he cut her off, saying with all the fervor of a man drunk on whiskey, “I’ve wanted you—all to myself—for ages now. I’ve been furious with you, with myself. Rebellious against the wishes of my parents. Hasty. If the Dark Lord could see into my mind, I’m sure He would have murdered me and allowed you to take over the task, because if you are meant to be His heir, if that’s His intention, then I have offended Him with impure thoughts.” His smirk came back, and for a moment she thought about the way those lips would taste.

 

But the moment past, and she shook her head. “Draco, I can’t.”

 

He looked a little sad but not surprised, and replied, “Don’t tell me you don’t feel something for me? When you kiss me, I know. I’ve known. Since the bonfire.”

 

“I won’t deny I’ve felt something for you,” she took up her glass again, and tried to poise herself. The next part would be difficult for him. “But it’s out of my hands.”

 

“Elizabeth, I’m serious. I know my reputation, but I can—I want—to be with you.”

 

“I don’t doubt you, but it’s out of my hands.” Her words were slow and measured. Silence hung around them, and she felt forced to add, “He plans to arrange a marriage for me. He plans not just to select me as His heir, but to act as a father might. He plans to take care of me.”

 

“You can’t be serious.“

 

“Perfectly so.” She said simply, draining her glass and rising from him. “Which means you should go.” He stood too, heat rising up his neck and his eyes flashing with that wild look again, as if he was briefly transported back to that morning’s hunt. It was the look of a man whose arm is stretched out about to grasp the thing he’s wanted.

 

Instead of moving to go, he took her by the shoulders and brought her to him, lips crashing onto hers in a slippery, drunken kiss. He moved so fast she couldn’t push him away, and her gut wrenched with the realization that she did not want to. She had hoped to keep hating him, to keep her distance in their work, and to mock Hera for suggesting indecent actions were occurring when they were alone together. Instead, she found her tongue moving against his like it had been crafted to do so.

 

The kiss may have only been a moment or it may have been a year, but eventually she was the one who snapped away, breathing hard and cursing under her exhalations. Her hand rushed through her hair and she noticed that her robe was open now, the warmth of his hand still lingering on her ribcage. He turned away, his hands grasping the back of the chair that he’d been leaning against on the floor. It teetered on its back legs with the force of his grip.

 

“Why! Why does He get to decide! Everything—whether my family lives, whether my attempts are worth acknowledging, whether I get to have you! Ellie, tell me why He gets to decide when you kiss me like that.”

 

I decide.” She stood tall, eyes blazing. His anger infuriated her. “I allow Him to decide. He will pick a man for me, and I will be loyal to that man because I allow it to be so. Because I’ve decided.” Draco’s whole demeanor was wild then, and she knew he wanted to object, but she continued before he could. “And what would you do, hmm, when you couldn’t have me? When He picked someone other than you. What would you do when you couldn’t have me?”

 

His wild eyes turned dumb, and she knew that he had never contemplated a reality in which he could not have her—a world in which he could not get everything that he wanted. Those dumb eyes followed her as she walked across the room and opened the door, holding it there for him.

 

“Get out, Malfoy.

 

 

 

 

 

Author's Note: This is one of my favorite chapters thus far, and I'm so excited to share it with you all! Elizabeth, Elizabeth, Elizabeth...! Amirite?

The chapter is inspired by the Wild Hunt, which is a German folk myth. I encourage you all to read about it online (with Wikipedia being a great source, surprisingly). There is also a beautiful painting by Peter Nicolai Arbo that served as inspiration for the imagery of the men preparing to head out on the hunt. The myth seemed to work so wonderfully with my vision of Pureblood tradition, and I'm interested to see what you think of it!

Thank you to pink bunny and EmmyBacon for the reviews. I can't tell you how much I appreciate the feedback! It's so valuable to me, especially as I continue to write and develop these characters.

Always, Antigone

 

 



Chapter 26: Merry Land
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

Evelyn looked as tired as she felt the next morning when her aunt came to the door, knocking loudly and calling to her to wake up. The door cracked open, and Minerva’s voice came in a gentler tone. “You’ll need to be ready in an hour. Hermione is already up.”

 

She threw off the covers, dressing quickly in the soft blue morning light. The sun was just coming up; it could have only been seven o’clock. Their passage through the international floo was scheduled for half-past ten. She was trying to do the math in her head, finally landing on their arrival time near six in the morning in Maryland. By the time she was settled with the Coupes, it would be like she was starting her day again. Her body felt heavy with exhaustion just at the thought of it, and she resented only getting a few hours of sleep that night. Even now, thoughts of Harry were lying at the edge of her mind.

 

She placed a few final things in her travel bag, which had been charmed to fit everything, and then took a few extra moments to perform a handful of glamor charms that made it look like she’d had more sleep than was true. Then, she took one more turn about the room, concluded she had everything, and closed the door softly behind her.

 

The sound of cutlery scratching against plates met her ears as she came into the kitchen, and she was surprised to find more people awake at that hour than she’d anticipated. Minerva and Demeter were seated at one end of the table, the bottle of firewhisky she knew Demeter had shared with Remus sitting next to her aunt’s water cup with only a shot or two left in the bottle. Her aunt didn’t look too worse for wear, and she heard her croak softly “hair of the dog” as she pushed the bottle towards Remus, who was sitting across from her and looking particularly hung-over.

 

Hermione was a few seats down, talking with Ron and Harry. Her bag was slung over the back of her chair. She wore the sweater Mrs. Weasley had given her for Christmas, which had a large H knitted onto the front. Her hair was tied away from her face, and she glowed with excitement. Evelyn noticed immediately that Ron looked less than thrilled. He stabbed at his bacon, and only seemed to keep an ear to Hermione begrudgingly. He didn’t even greet Evelyn as she took the seat next to Harry, across from Ron. Mrs. Weasley immediately placed a full plate in front of her with a bright “tuck in,” and Evelyn only barely managed to thank her before she moved back down the table to pour Ron’s father another cup of coffee.

 

“Morning,” she said, her tone a mixture of brightness and trepidation.

 

Hermione’s greeting met her brightness, and Harry’s her trepidation.

 

“I was just saying that we might go to see the Magical Congress if the weather isn’t too poor and we can get a side-along apparation,” Hermione said quickly, still smiling. “I’ve read the Woolworth Building is beautiful, and I’d love to see the monument to the Salem Witch trials.”

 

Evelyn nodded. “We might visit the embassy where my mother worked, too. It’s only a few blocks from the No-Maj Congress, which is worth a visit, too. And I’m sure Lacey’s mom has planned a few things for us.”

 

“That sounds interesting,” was all Harry said, smiling tightly.

 

She suddenly wished she had arrived at breakfast to find him alone so that they could talk openly. It was as if not kissing, letting that moment pass them by, had erected a barrier between them that stilted their conversation. His gaze was different now, and her voice felt teetering when she replied. She suddenly longed for the Room of Requirement, where she felt most herself—and where she thought perhaps he did, too. There were no barriers there.

 

“I think Hermione will enjoy it—and it’ll be nice to be back in my old stomping grounds with my friends, and to hear about all the things they’ve done since I’ve been gone.” She paused for a moment, and then added reflectively, “I’m sure so much has changed.”

 

“Has so much changed?” Harry asked, avoiding her eyes and instead focusing on a clump of scrambled egg that he pushed around his plate with his fork.

 

“Yes,” she said, happy that this answer caused him to look up, a glimmer of something in his eye. “At least I think so.”

 

“I can’t imagine it wouldn’t!” Hermione chimed in, breaking the moment up without knowing she had. “But I think it will probably feel natural to be back there, don’t you? It will probably be me that prevents you from settling right back in.”

 

Evelyn could hear the self-consciousness in Hermione’s voice and she smiled, shaking her head, “I think you’ll fit right in, Hermione. My friends will love you—and it’ll be nice to finally have someone around who doesn’t know Bobby well enough to be thwarted from putting him in his place by knowledge of his fragile ego.”

 

Ron was suddenly looking—glaring—at Evelyn. “You’ve got to be careful of those American guys, Hermione. I’ve heard they’re high maintenance, and controlling, and a bit fat.”

 

Evelyn couldn’t help the look of shock that claimed her face, and Hermione looked a bit abashed on her behalf. “Where could you have possibly heard that Ron?”

 

“I know people.” He muttered, stuffing bacon into his mouth so that he didn’t have to elaborate. Harry was smiling into his tea, refusing to make eye contact with any of them.

 

“You about ready?” Aunt Demeter’s voice came down the table, snapping them out of their conversation. Evelyn had eaten quickly, and Hermione was pushing back her plate. It was time.

 

She rose quietly, and was about to take up her bag when she noticed Harry had already grabbed it for her and was pushing her chair back into the table. She wanted so badly to say something to him, but nothing that came to mind was right. Ron and Hermione were still bickering back and forth about his knowledge (or lack thereof) of American guys, but they faded into the background as she tried to focus on Harry and what could be said to express all of the things she’d thought about last night. The hallway wasn’t nearly long enough.

 

Demeter and Minerva were taking them to the international floo station, and were in the living room opening the grate. Only minutes left now. Hermione and Ron entered the room, where they stood next to Mr. and Mrs. Weasley, the latter hugging Hermione like she might have hugged Ginny.

 

Harry lingered by the doorway, Evelyn at his side.

 

“I guess you’ll be leaving then?”

 

“Only if you give up my bag.” She said, smiling as a surprised look washed over his face. He handed it to her with a blush. Feeling wordlessness coming up between them, she added quickly, “It’ll only be a few days—five, I think, then we’ll be back.”

 

“Fred and George are planning a New Year’s Eve party at their flat above the shop.”

 

“I’ll see you there then.”

 

“Yeah,” he trailed off, “On New Year’s Eve.”

 

“Not long at all.” She reached out, touching his hand briefly and locking eyes with him. She had read in so many books about times when eyes communicated everything that needed to be said, and she wondered if she was able to do that right then. If he knew she was saying, don’t change your mind—wait, just a few days.

 


 

“You have your tickets? And enough money for the week? And a stash of floo powder to let us know when you arrive to the Coupe’s?” Aunt Minnie asked, her tone sharp and her eyes never leaving Evelyn. This would be the first time she was away from her aunt since she had become her guardian, and the first time she took the international floo without her mother.

 

The station was just as she remembered it. The long room had entrances at the north, south, east, and west, with information desks that featured stuffy looking wizards lording over instructional pamphlets and maps. The east and west walls each featured three grand fireplaces, which were at least three times larger than a standard fire place, allowing multiple witches and wizards to floo simultaneously.

 

The station was crowded with holiday travelers, all anxiously awaiting their floo number to be called. Small batches were summoned at a time, all traveling to the same hub. Her eyes scanned the crowds, wondering briefly which of these witches and wizards might be going to Maryland just as they were.

 

She brought her eyes back to her Aunt Minnie, who was beginning to fret. “We have everything we need.”

 

“Not everything!” Demeter said cheekily, holding out a cellophane bag of assorted treats from Sugarplum’s Sweets Shop, “You’ll need sustenance.”

 

Evelyn beamed at her aunt, taking the bag and placing it carefully into the deep pocket of her traveling robe. “Thank you,” she said, suddenly feeling heavy with the weight of leaving them. She hugged Aunt Demeter tightly and then Aunt Minnie.

 

“Be safe, Evie.” Demeter said sweetly. Minerva said nothing, the thin line of her lips curving slightly on the ends in a worried way. Her eyes were so soft that she looked as if she might cry. Evelyn hugged them each again, and then led Hermione to the turnstiles. They showed their tickets to the floo guard, who inspected them carefully before using his wand to stamp them and allowing the girls to pass through. He told them which fireplace they would be departing from, the title of which had also appeared on their ticket after it had been stamped. Every few feet, Evelyn looked over her shoulder and made eye contact with her aunts until the pair was lost to the crowd.

 

 

It took awhile for their number to be called, and by then Hermione was a bit nervous. She examined the witches and wizards stuffed in next to them, her careful eyes attempting to discern whether or not these people were trustworthy. The woman closest to her glared back, and popped her gum with disdain.

 

Evelyn was happy that they managed to shuffle into the middle of the group, saying to Hermione, “The middle tends to be less turbulent.”

 

Hermione looked away from the woman next to her, and Evelyn could immediately see the surprise pass across Hermione’s face. The other girl had obviously not considered how it would feel to take the international floo. Without a reply, she felt Hermione’s hand move into hers as the floo attendant that had showed them into the fireplace gave them the usual instructions.

 

Using the amplification charm, the attendant said in a sweet but affected tone, “Please maintain an upright position at all times. Please keep your elbows close to your body. Ensure that your wand and all belongs are secure. Be mindful of other passengers. For those of you taking the international floo network for the first time, please note that the floo powder will be distributed from above and the flames will be distributed from below. At that time, I will state your destination. I will be casting the silencing charm shortly, and the attendant that greets you at your final destination will remove this charm. Thank you, and have a safe trip.”

 

She then cast the silencing charm and then pointed her wand at a mechanism that spun wildly, dropping the floo powder from above just as she’d said. The flames met the powder exactly at the same time they heard the woman announce “The Baltimore International Floo Station, North America” in the same affected, articulate tone.

 

Evelyn loved the moment when the zooming fireplaces and hearths suddenly disappeared and the ocean was there, racing past. She could feel Hermione’s hand tighten around hers, and she was glad to know that she was there though she couldn’t see her. Though in reality the journey only took a few minutes, traveling internationally through floo always felt unnervingly long and she was glad to feel her feet meet ash in the familiar brick fireplace in Baltimore. It took her eyes a moment to adjust, and she blinked a few times, looking at Hermione but not saying anything. The other girl’s lips moved, but when she realized there was no sound coming out she frowned.

 

“Welcome to the Baltimore International Floo Station, the largest floo station in the United States!” A new voice greeted them, just as sweet and articulate but with the blunter American accent that Evelyn hadn’t missed until that moment. The guard removed the silencing charm and then motioned for them all to exit the fireplace.

 

The Baltimore station was very different than the London station; it had tall glass windows along the walls and sparkling grey quartz tiles on the floors. The brick fireplaces were whitewashed, and looked clean and bright. Modern chairs stretched in rows, and witches and wizards leaned back in them waiting with more of an air of anxiety than their British counterparts.

 

Hermione fell into step with Evelyn, who marched forward from the cluster of witches and wizards in their fireplace towards the exit with the certainty only a person who had traveled through this station multiple times in her life could possess. The Baltimore station had dedicated the northern side to arrivals, and she knew that the Coupe family would have to wait for them there, on the other side of customs.

 

Evelyn had already explained to Hermione that they would have to be cleared by customs before being allowed to depart, which she’d been pleasantly surprised to hear wasn’t entirely unfamiliar to her friend. Hermione had traveled abroad with her parents before, and the Muggle system was similar. Fortunately the wait was rather short, and they found themselves before a bored looking official in only a few moments. He took their tickets and, after passing his wand over them with an inquisitive eye, asked, “Reason for your visit?”

 

“Visiting friends for the Christmas holiday.” Evelyn said confidently.

 

“How long is your stay?”

 

“About five nights.” Evelyn said after a moment of counting.

 

“Six days.” Hermione added, ever factual.

 

The wizard looked a bit annoyed by their accuracy. “Will you be staying in Maryland, or departing from the state?”

 

“We’ll be staying here with our friends.”

 

“Do you have any magical objects or animals to declare?”

 

“We’ve both got our wands, but nothing else—some treats from Diagon Alley, but those aren’t technically magical in and of themselves, I guess. Unless you count the chocolate frogs?”

 

“We do not count the chocolate frogs, ma’am. No brooms or the like?”

 

They shook their heads back and forth.

 

“Enjoy your stay in Baltimore, ladies.” He finally said, adding another stamp to their tickets with his wand and allowing them through the turnstiles.

 

The girls hurried through, exchanging excited glances as they found themselves on the other side. Evelyn wondered how the experience compared to Muggle travel, but she resigned herself to asking Hermione later that evening when they’d have a moment to relax. Now, the most important thing was to find the Coupes.

 

It didn’t take long.

 

Near the doors stood Miranda Coupe, her familiar blonde hair bobbed at her chin. Her head was covered by a knit hat, and she held a small handmade sign that read “Evie and Hermione” in her daughter’s familiar handwriting. She waved Evelyn over with delight, tossing aside the sign as soon as she was close enough to hug.

 

“Mrs. Coupe!” was all Evelyn could manage as happy tears threatened at the corners of her eyes.

 

“Oh, honey,” was all she could return. She knew Mrs. Coupe was most likely on the edge of tears as well, and the thought warmed her heart. Eventually, she pulled back from the warm embrace to study Evelyn. “You look older and wiser—and beautiful, of course.” Then she turned to Hermione, who she also hugged. When she pulled back, Hermione’s cheeks were red from the unexpected gesture. She studied Hermione as well, the smile on her face never wavering. “You must be Hermione, Evie’s new friend. We’ve all been looking forward to meeting you.”

 

Hermione’s cheeks turned redder, if possible.

 

“I left everyone in bed at the house, despite Lacey’s protests. David was making waffles when I left, so I hope you came hungry.”

 


 

For the second time that day, Evelyn entered a room to the sound of cutlery scraping against plates. Though she’d been perfectly happy with her reception at Grimmauld Place, the reception in Lacey’s kitchen was much louder and brighter.

 

The force with which Lacey threw herself at Evelyn almost knocked the air out of her. The feeling of her friend’s arms around her was so familiar, and the overwhelming sensation of home that came with that feeling brought tears to her eyes. May would have been right behind Lacey if Bobby hadn’t knocked her to the side, taking ahold of Evelyn as soon as Lacey let her go and holding her to him so tightly that her feet left the ground. All of her friends were talking simultaneously, mixing I missed you and you’re finally here and Merry Christmas. It was overwhelming, but also thrilling. It felt almost like a part of her had been missing until that moment, and that piece came hurtling back to her, clicking into place.

 

After being squeezed again and again, Evelyn stepped back and pushed her hair behind her ears. She was flushed with warmth, and paused for a moment before turning her eyes to Hermione, who had been standing quietly off to the side, observing in that hawkish way that she did when no one was watching.

 

“Everyone, this is Hermione—my best British friend,” Evelyn smiled at the cadence, gesturing towards Hermione, “Hermione, this is Lacey, Bobby, May, Devon, and Theo.” She pointed at each as she went down the line, and Hermione nodded along, playing it cool as if she hadn’t heard stories of these people before. Evelyn could see Hermione’s brain working behind her warm brown eyes, pairing names with faces. She paused the longest over Theo.

 

“We’re so happy you came with Evie,” said May warmly. “Lacey and I have been wondering how she’s getting along, and who’s been taking care of her.”

 

Lacey rolled her eyes a bit, “We know she’s mostly trouble.”

 

Bobby added, “She’s worth it though.”

 

“If that’s the case, then I think she’s been holding back on us—she’s been quite reserved! The least of my concerns, truly.” Hermione’s British lilt was a strong contrast to the American accent, and all of Evie’s friends’ faces immediately lit up with the same expression of interest that every American seemed to make whenever a British person spoke.

 

“They make it sound like I was a closet arsonist or something,” Evelyn sighed dramatically, motioning towards a chair at the table where the lot had been eating when they entered. Hermione took it, and she sat down next to her, the rest returning to their plates. “I wasn’t bad!”

 

“The teachers use to call you ‘rebel without a cause,’” Theo said pointedly.

 

“I thought that was you.” She returned.

 

“Maybe they used the plural,” he conceded, pushing his hair way from his eyes. Evelyn allowed her eyes to linger on him, reveling for a moment in how familiar he was. She knew every inch of him, and there was something thrilling about having that knowledge of another person.

 

She turned her eyes to Bobby before Theo could catch her staring, as Bobby had started telling a story about her and soon the stories were rolling, Hermione laughing along and inserting little snippets of things that had happened over the last term that either confirmed or contrasted with the person Evelyn had been in Maryland.

 

She had spent a lot of time thinking about that person, and whether she was different now than she had been just a year ago. Of course, she was. She recognized it immediately; even before the amnesia charm was cast and since the remembering, she had known it. She was more cautious, more focused on her schoolwork, and more thoughtful—a result of the attacks on her family and of the preparation for what she knew was ahead. She could feel pieces of her old self come back to her, during parties after Quidditch games or by the fire in Grimmauld Place, where she knew she was safe among friends and she could be more relaxed. Even here in the Coupe’s kitchen, she could feel that person coming back to her little by little. It would never be the same, she reckoned, she’d never be that naive again, but she wanted to be able to have fun. She wanted to enjoy this time—this vacation.

 

She paused in her thoughts, again looking over at Theo. This time, they briefly made eye contact as the conversation turned towards school more generally and what was new at the Academy. It was an effort to pull her gaze away from him so that she could look at Hermione and the others, and encourage the conversation to continue.

 

She realized then that what she hadn’t spent much time considering, however, was how life in Maryland might have moved on without her. Perhaps selfishly or perhaps naturally, her focus—particularly since the remembering—had been on her own life. Though she’d gotten better about writing Lacey, who was her primary correspondent, she hadn’t necessarily contemplated the fact that her friends did not exist in a vacuum. They had continued to live their lives, just as they should be expected to. It wasn’t the fact in and of itself that hurt her. It was the reality of it. Part of their world was alien to her just as part of her world was to them. While she ate the waffles that Mrs. Coupe placed in front of her, she tried to accept the fact that she didn’t necessarily care that the new junior who had transferred to the Academy had beaten Bobby in their first duel. She realized that like Hermione, who looked interested yet unaffected, that this person—this Jonathon Rollins, formerly of Iowa—would be superfluous to her life. She nodded along diligently, smiling at all the right moments but feeling a small stone of jealousy in the bottom of her stomach. It was silly, she knew, and it would pass, but it was there nonetheless.

 

Eventually, the conversation turned to Hogwarts, and they had several questions for Hermione, all of which she handled gracefully as she admitted that yes, she knew the Boy Who Lived, and yes, she was that friend, and no, she hadn’t cheated on Viktor Krum with Harry.

 

 

Evelyn and Hermione had fought off the fatigue of their travels and the time difference as long as they could, but eventually admitted defeat and took their bags up to the spare room where Lacey showed them the large bed they’d share for the next few days.

 

Lacey showed Hermione where the bathroom was, and while she disappeared for a bit to wash up, Lacey took a seat next to Evelyn, who had allowed her torso to fall back on the bed with her feet dangling just above the carpet.

 

“She seems really nice,” Lacey said quietly, looking down at Evelyn and smiling.

 

“She is—they all are actually. It’s been a long semester though.”

 

“I know, it’s been the same for me.” Lacey paused, biting her lip a bit, “It’s just not the same without you here, you know.”

 

Evelyn reached for her friend’s hand and gave it a brief squeeze, nodding, “Not the same at all.”

 

“Promise?”

 

“Pinky promise,” Evelyn said, taking Lacey’s little finger in hers and shaking her hand a bit just as they had always done in their middle school years. Her friend smiled, looking more reassured.

 

There was a brief pause as Hermione returned, and Lacey stood to allow the other girl onto the bed. Leaning against the dresser, she said, “I wanted to make sure I told you before I let you sleep that we were thinking we might take you both out for a night on the town—like the old days. Tomorrow night, if you’re feeling rested enough? Or Saturday if you prefer?”

 

“I think tomorrow night should be fine,” Evelyn said, looking at Hermione, who nodded along. “That way we could spend Saturday in the city. Hermione would like to be a tourist for the day.”

 

“Perfect! Then we could have a girls’ day on Sunday—May and I discussed that too. Maybe manicures or something like that at the spa? And then mom’s planned a goodbye dinner on Monday.”

 

Evelyn nodded, eager for sleep and excited with thoughts of what was ahead. “I’ll try to give Hermione as much a warning as possible. I assume Bobby dances just the same as he use to?”

 

“If possible, he’s even more erratic.”

 

Hermione looked between them, tired but intrigued. She was already under the covers, and Lacey moved towards the door, saying as she departed, “Don’t worry, Evelyn will tell you everything you need to know.”

 


 

Evelyn woke to a dark room, feeling slightly disoriented but rested. She could tell that it was an odd hour, however, and rolled on to her side, straining her eyes in the dark for a clock or some marker of time.

 

“It’s only four or so,” Hermione’s whisper came to her before Evelyn’s eyes had adjusted enough to see the outline of her friend’s face.

 

“Only four, but that would be—”

 

“Nine back home.”

 

Evelyn was quiet for a moment, adjusting the covers to keep the warmth and settling back into a comfortable position on her back. Hermione was laying the same way, and she imagined that they both were tracing the pattern on the ceiling, wondering if sleep was gone for good or just a little ways away. She didn’t feel tired.

 

“How long have you been awake?”

 

“Not long,” Hermione admitted, “I thought about reading for a bit, but didn’t want to get out from under the covers to find my book or my wand. So I’ve just been thinking. It’s been quiet—and nice.”

 

“I think dancing will be nice, too,” Evelyn reasoned, “I use to demand dancing when I lived here. I talked a lot about how it helped my soul, you know, like a ritual or something. Lacey used to joke that I just liked to have an excuse for doing shots and watching the sunrise.”

 

“That doesn’t sound like you at all.”

 

“The shots or the sunrise—or both?”

 

“The dancing, actually,” Hermione said quietly, and Evelyn wondered if her friend felt that these were dark waters. She didn’t feel that way, but after their brief falling out over Hermione’s actions with her aunts, she wondered if her friend felt hesitant about these sorts of topics. She thought about asking, but Hermione continued. “I’m looking forward to it, though. It’ll be good to see you dance after this last semester. I think you’ll need it. And it’ll be good for me to dance too. Good for our souls, like you said.”

 

Evelyn smiled, though she knew Hermione couldn’t see it. Then, after the silence had stretched between them long enough, she asked, “What do you think is happening at home?”

 

“Ron is probably eating.” Hermione’s response was so blunt that Evelyn couldn’t help but laugh.

 

“That wouldn’t surprise me,” she mustered after her laughter had subsided.

 

“Do you think they miss us?” Hermione asked, her voice barely above a whisper. She never turned to look at Evelyn, and Evelyn never turned to look at her. She felt, perhaps, it would have been harder to answer the question if she had.

 

“I think they must,” she said after awhile, her words slow but certain. “If nothing else, they’ll be bored without us, but I like to think it’s more than that.”

 

“I’d like to think that, too.”

 

This time, Evelyn didn’t disturb the silence as it returned and eventually she could hear the change in Hermione’s breathing as she drifted back to sleep. It took Evelyn longer to fall back asleep. She allowed her mind to return to England and to Harry—and to the should-have-been kisses that never were. She felt like something had been denied her, some missed opportunity that she hadn’t realized she’d wanted until she couldn’t have it. The realization felt slightly childish, but she couldn’t help herself.

 

She missed him, she realized just before drifting back to sleep, and she liked him more than she wanted anyone to know.

 

 

 

 


Author's Note: I'm interested to hear what you all think of this chapter. This journey to America was a very important part of this series, especially for Evelyn and Hermione, when the story was originally written, and while I have wanted to make many revisions when I decided to start Tempting Fate again, I felt that this journey in particular could stay. I'm not sure I'm entirely satisfied with it because it feels a little bit like a departure from where we've been, but at the same time I think it provides an important opportunity for introspection for Evelyn. Plus... It allows the next chapter, which is entirely new to the plot and which I'm really excited to post!

xx, Fading Antigone

 

 

 

 

 

 



Chapter 27: Vada
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

Evelyn tugged at the dress she was wearing, turning left and right in the mirror to catch different angles of herself. The dress was Lacey’s, and wasn’t exactly her style.

 

If she was being honest, she’d admit that her style tended more towards minimalist grunge with a flair of what her mother had once called “feminine tomboy,” with her most comfortable outfits consisting of jeans, tees, blazers or leather jackets or simple, high-cut dresses. She took much of her inspiration from Winona Ryder, who starred in many of her favorite Muggle films.

 

For a moment, her mind drifted to scenes from Reality Bites, which Lacey and she had gone to see only two years ago—had it really only been two years ago? It felt a world away.

 

She was pulled from her brief reverie when Hermione entered the bedroom, wearing a dress from Evelyn’s suitcase. It was, indeed, one of those simple, high-cut dresses in black. It came to just above Hermione’s knee, and she had paired it with hose and flat black mules.

 

“That fits you great!”

 

“I feel a bit like one of those people from that show that was on earlier—what was it? Ninety, twenty, something?”

 

“You mean 90210?” Evelyn laughed a bit at the absurdity of her incredibly brilliant friend struggling to understand American pop culture. That seemed to be the starkest contrast between Britain and America, to Evelyn at least. The wizarding world in the States kept a close watch on the No-Maj world—its politics, its popular culture. All of the magical families she knew in Maryland had television sets, which were tuned to receive magical channels as well as No-Maj channels. Lacey had been obsessed with Beverly Hills, 90210 as long as Evelyn could remember. She had labored over characters’ backgrounds that afternoon in an attempt to help Hermione understand the drama.

 

Hermione moved in next to Evelyn in the mirror and began to adjust her hair, while Evelyn returned to tugging the sides of her dress. It was also a black dress, and was designed to look like a slip. It was clear that the dress must fit Lacey like a glove, as it was a little wide on Evelyn (who was taller and leaner than Lacey—and a little more flat-chested, she noticed). However, the extra width wasn’t unflattering, and the fabric lay lovely. In fact, the fabric, the length, and the general shape were all things that Evelyn liked; it was the cut of the bust that was making her feel particularly self-conscious. The spaghetti straps barely held up the sweetheart-necked dress, which was more revealing than anything she owned.

 

Lacey chose that moment to return, wearing a similar dress to the one she’d insisted Evelyn wear, but tighter and cut more narrowly at the hips. It was cherry red, and she had paired it with matching heels.

 

“How long have you been fidgeting like that?” Lacey cut right to it.

 

“Not long—”

 

“Since I came back to the room ten minutes ago.” Hermione interrupted, eying Evelyn’s reflected eyes. She had put up her hair and was working on a bit of make-up.

 

“Well, stop it. You look incredible.” She reached forward, smacking Evelyn’s hands away from her sides. “You’ll make Theo drop dead, if it’s any encouragement.”

 

Evelyn blushed a bit, chuckling, “I suppose it is.” She resigned herself to the dress, knowing the only other option she had was to force Hermione to switch with her, and there was no way that was going to happen. Instead, she took a seat on the bed and tugged on her low boots and form-fitting leather jacket. Lacey wrinkled her nose at the choice of accessories, but knew better than to say anything.

 

It seemed to have only been a few minutes when the doorbell rang, and the three girls heard Lacey’s mother usher in the others. They were practically finished, and sped through the last few steps before collecting their purses and heading downstairs.

 

Devon, Theo, and Bobby were dressed in similar outfits, each wearing a variation of a button-down shirt and jeans. Theo’s button-down shirt was tailored a little more closely to his body, and as Evelyn allowed her eyes to slide over him, she wondered if he bought his shirts like that or if he had to cast a spell on them so that they would fit him that well. Devon was a bit plainer, standing behind May while she talked to Hermione. His sleeves were rolled up, and the navy shirt was a few shades darker than his jeans. Bobby, on the other hand, was wearing his button-down shirt open with a white shirt underneath.

 

May, who immediately received compliments from all of the girls and who graciously returned them, was wearing a blush colored skirt and white, high-cut crop top. Even with her abdomen showing, she appeared an innocent contrast to Evelyn’s grunged-up slip dress. (Lacey had earlier confided that May was a bit of a closet Britney Spears fan, and she hoped they would play her new song at the dance club they were going to because she knew May would probably lose it.)

 

“You all look so grown up,” Miranda Coupe cooed, immediately leaving the living room to fetch the family camera while Lacey’s father tried not to comment on the length of the girls’ skirts. When she returned, she waved them together and took several photos, which immediately spit out of the camera in quick succession. It was a Polaroid that had been converted to quickly produce magical photos. The girls each took one, shaking them gently and watching at their figures came into focus.

 

Hermione looked at Evelyn with a furtive, devilish look—an expression new to the face—before going to Mrs. Coupe and saying something out of earshot. It wasn’t until Mrs. Coupe handed over a piece of parchment, an envelope, and a pen and announcing she would fetch the family owl that Evelyn realized what her friend had meant by her look.

 

Before she could intervene, Hermione had jotted out a quick note and attached the envelope to the owl. As the owl took flight, Evelyn realized she had written the names “Ronald Weasley” and “Harry Potter” in large, looping letters on the envelope. She chuckled softly to herself as her friend returned to her side, and picked up her conversation with May as if nothing had happened.

 

Mrs. Coupe then launched the standard litany of reminders before allowing them to depart by floo: Don’t drink too much. Stay in the wizarding part of town if you can. Stay together. Never go to the bathroom alone. Be aware of your surroundings. Be smart. Be safe. When Lacey had assured her mother that they intended on being both smart and safe and she had let her father to kiss her on the forehead, they were allowed to take the floo two at a time.

 

Their destination was a small section of the Adams Morgan neighborhood in Washington, D.C. known as Kalorama, which was only about thirty miles from Lacey’s home in Maryland. Kalorama was a wizarding neighborhood that took its name from Kalorama Road, where a few thousand witches and wizards had tucked away their townhomes using a series of charms and spells that kept the No-Maj generally unaware of their magical neighbors. The street was also home to a handful of bars, and allowed access to the rest of the Adams Morgan neighborhood, which had grown incredibly trendy in recent years. Young witches and wizards liked to live in the neighborhood, and commute out of the city to their jobs in larger wizarding communities in Maryland or Virginia, or were employed by the embassies in the No-Maj capital.

 

When they stepped out of the fireplace in the basement of the Rendezvous Lounge, an older wizard asked for identification and reviewed each of their cards in turn. For those who had not yet turned seventeen, Bobby had magicked their cards to show that they were each of age and the older wizard seemed disinterested enough to believe them. He stamped their hands and warned them that No-Maj were around that night, and to be mindful of their magic. “If you prefer a more homogenous watering hole, you can take a left out of the lounge and head down Kalorama,” he advised.

 

Bobby nodded, patting him on the back and leading the group up the stairs to the narrow bar above where he immediately headed for the bartender while Lacey beckoned the rest of the group to a table she’d spotted. The bar was pleasantly crowded, with most of the tables or stools at the bar occupied. Everyone looked older than them, and Evelyn could see Hermione tugging at her dress in an attempt to lengthen it.

 

“I think this is okay for a drink or two, but then we should move on. Maybe to Club Heaven and Hell or Bourbon?” Lacey said, leaning close to them with her elbows on the table. Evelyn nodded, remembering each of those establishments—and this one too. She let her eyes crawl over the walls and the chairs and the people, smiling despite herself. Nothing much had changed.

 

“I’m sure Bobby will want to go to the Picture Frame Factory.” Theo said. He was sitting next to Evelyn, and his shoulder leaned against hers. The table was probably better suited for six, but it had been their only option.

 

Within a few minutes, Bobby arrived with a tray of shots, glinting marigold in the dim light. A bowl of limes was on the tray as well as a saltshaker. Tequila, Evelyn knew, grinning.

 

“Got to get my girl’s favorite.” He said as he set the tray down. His smile was wolfish and boyish at the same time.

 

“What is it?” Hermione wrinkled her nose a bit as Bobby set one in front of her.

 

“Tequila,” Evelyn answered readily, “A classic.”

 

“In Evelyn’s opinion at least. Unfortunately, we can’t get Quintana here, which is our top shelf.” Theo explained, sending a look Evelyn’s way that said clearly I know everything you’ve ever done when you’ve had too much tequila. She blushed, and was immediately thankful for the low lighting.

 

She turned her attention to the shots, and taking the salt shaker as it was handed round, licked the back of her hand and shook a bit onto it. Hermione watched her carefully and copied the steps. When everyone had their salt and lime ready, Bobby held up his shot glass, saying, “To Evelyn, our prodigal friend. May England know how lucky she is to have you, and may America see you enough to not forget.”

 

She smiled broadly, clinking her glass against his and the others before licking the salt from her hand and throwing back the shot. The lime followed, along with a contented sigh—it was still her favorite.

 

“Merlin!” Hermione shouted as soon as she’d swallowed. “That’s your favorite?!”

 

“I know, right?” May nodded, her face still twisted a bit as the flavor lingered in the back of her throat. Her eyes looked a little wet.

 

Lacey, on the other hand, reached across the table and took Evelyn’s hands into hers. “I’m so glad you’re back.” She declared, a wicked smile on her face. Her lipstick shone in the light, stark against her white teeth.

 

“Another, or onward?” Bobby asked, moving the empty glasses onto the tray.

 

“I vote onward. I want to dance.” Lacey said, and May nodded along. Devon had moved behind her to wrap his arms around her in a casual embrace.

 

“What about the Picture Frame Factory?”

 

Theo groaned, rolling his eyes. “I knew that’s where you’d want to go.”

 

“Why do you resist it? You know it’s the best option.”

 

“Bourbon is way better.”

 

“And way less magical.” Bobby emphasized the word, looking around a bit to make sure they didn’t look too suspicious.

 

“We don’t need it!” Theo declared, “At least not right away—let’s do Bourbon. Or Lace was thinking Heaven and Hell? That club down the way. We can end at the Factory. It makes sense, especially when you think we’ll be able to, erm, catch a ride home from there.”

 

Bobby looked doubtful. Theo turned to Evelyn, “What do you think? It makes sense, right? You guys can dance at the club, right?” He had moved his hand to her shoulder, and the touch felt so casual that it actually confused her. Were they the kinds of friends that touched like this? She tried to remember, but the memory seemed beyond her, as if it was apart of the collection of memories that hadn’t returned to her yet.

 

“I think Theo’s probably got some sound logic at work here.” She conceded, looking at Bobby, “And you know how much I hate to agree with him.”

 

Bobby nodded, smiling then, and looking briefly in Hermione’s direction. “And you’re okay with dancing?”

 

“I’m a pretty decent dancer.” She shrugged.

 

“Alright then. Let’s go.”

 

Those of them that were still sitting clambered out of their seats, and they walked out in a small group, eventually moving to sets of two with Bobby leading the way as the exception, followed by May and Devon, Lacey and Theo, and Evelyn and Hermione. The air was cold, and they could see their breath as they started in on little conversations.

 

Evelyn pointed out a few important places as they walked by to give Hermione a better sense of the landscape. As they crossed the street, she gestured to an ordinary-looking framing studio. “That’s the Picture Frame Factory they keep talking about. It’s Bobby’s favorite bar in this part of town.”

 

“You mean that place with the actual frames in it?” Hermione looked skeptical, as if questioning whether Evelyn had pointed at the correct establishment.

 

“Yes, that’s the first floor. The basement is a bar for wizards only. You have to be able to get past the necessary charms to get in. Sometimes they have music in the evenings, and sometimes they have poets or writers reading. It’s a really mixed bag. It use to be a disco when it first opened in the seventies.”

 

Hermione nodded, her arm laced through Evelyn’s as they kept the quick pace of the group, making their way down the block and into Club Heaven and Hell. The man at the door seemed skeptical of some of their ID cards, but stamped their hands regardless after Lacey batted her eyes a few times and May whispered that she was getting cold.

 

The club was more crowded than the Rendezvous Lounge had been, and Evelyn was happy to see that many of the customers were closer to them in age. They made their way to the bar first, where Evelyn joined Bobby and Lacey in another round of shots while the other girls ordered mixed drinks and Devon and Theo ordered whiskeys on the rocks. They drifted towards the lower level, known fondly as hell, where the tempo of the music was a little quicker. The DJ was playing mostly R&B, which was largely unfamiliar to Evelyn. It wasn’t necessarily her favorite style of music, but she liked how easy it was to dance to. The group settled into a portion of the dance floor away from the DJ, where they could dance but still hear one another.

 

“Different than I expected!” Hermione said loudly into Evelyn’s ear as she began to shimmy back and forth, casting glances around at the people dancing nearby. Evelyn nodded, bobbing to the music. She took Hermione’s hands in hers and spun her, trying to loosen them both up. She didn’t feel quite drunk enough.

 

As if reading her mind, Bobby returned with four shots. He smiled broadly as he handed one shot to Evelyn and one to Lacey before taking two himself. He was moving quickly through his drinks, and his round cheeks were already flushed. Evelyn could tell Lacey was feeling her drinks as well. She had begun to make eyes at the guy who was dancing behind her and who was making eyes back at her, both of them looking for an excuse to talk to one another. Within minutes, they were dancing, their bodies moving fluidly against one another to the rhythm.

 

Evelyn focused on the beat, feeling warm in the crowd. She could feel eyes on her all around, but wasn’t sure exactly who was looking at her. She danced close to Hermione, whispering observations back and forth and laughing together. The longer they stayed, the more relaxed she felt.

 

More shots were bought and passed around, Hermione even taking one, and before long Evelyn felt that it was just the beat, her body, and her friends. She wiggled and curved her hips, smiling treacherously at men who moved too close to her, always moving away from their outstretched hands and shaking her head sweetly, mouthing no, I’d prefer to dance with my friends. She sang when she knew the words, becoming more dramatic with her movements. At one point, Bobby took up her arms and briefly waltzed with her before they both fell apart laughing. He did the same with Hermione, but Evelyn noticed that he held on to her friend longer than he had held on to her. She smiled, looking about for someone to fill the void left by Hermione, who allowed Bobby to spin her as she laughed and moved side to side.

 

Theo stepped into her place, holding a fresh whiskey and leaning towards her ear to say, “Looks like Hermione has a new friend.” His eyes held hers, glimmering in that playful way they did when he was telling her something that was just for her. She always loved when he looked at her like that.

 

Nodding, she replied, “Worlds colliding!”

 

When he smiled at her, she could feel her mind pulling forth all the previous times in which that smile had been directed to her. She could remember a time when she thought that he had a smile designed just for her, as if the way his dimples settled in and his eyes shown were different when they shone on everyone else. Even after these months apart, he still looked at her the way he always had—as if his soul recognized her soul. His dark eyes were fixed on hers and she couldn’t pull herself away. She’d been trying to avoid moments like this because she knew this was how it went. Every time. He could pull her back in with a brief touch or a challenging remark. All they ever needed was the tiniest spark, and they set fire.

 

She felt tequila propelling her forward, making her feel more like her old self—bold in her self-awareness and her feeling. She moved a little closer to him, watching out of the corner of her eye as May leaned in to Devon to say something in his ear and he looked over at them, a brief smile fluttering across his face before he replied to his girlfriend. She was feeling too drunk to care about falling into this stereotype. She felt impulsive and safe here. She reached out and briefly touched Theo’s face, rubbing the scruff on his jawline against her hand. His smile widened, and she moved her hand upwards so that the apple of his cheek sat in her palm and she moved her body closer still, allowing her hips to take up his rhythm as they danced closer to one another.

 

Wordlessly, he offered his drink to her, and she took a long drag from the red straw swirling in the cup. She loved whiskey almost as much as tequila, and the taste reminded her immediately of the nights they’d spent in clubs or bars just like this one, where they’d chased tequila with whiskey until they were laughing so hard and kissing so hard, they were short of breath and lightheaded. Soon, she knew, they’d be forced to chase their drinks with coffee and May would scold them for not staying hydrated and Devon would say Let them be and Theo would lean forward, whispering a private joke into her ear: We’re so together when we’re together.

 

She felt his nose brush against her cheek as she sipped again. “I missed this,” he admitted, a few other words lost in her hair and the sound of the music. The beard he was sporting now tickled her ear, and she giggled, nodding, “I did, too. Everything is different now.”

 

He nodded, smiling still and she wondered if he had been able to hear her. He must have, as he replied, “Tonight, it’s not. We’ve got tonight.”

 

His hands moved onto her hips, familiar with the landscape, and she let it happen—liking how light she felt, and reveling in the novelty of the feeling, which she recognized had once upon a time not been novel, but had been her constant existence.

 

It was only when the DJ transitioned to a new song, and a few beats were missed, that Evelyn seemed to come back to herself. It was a strange thing that happened, a brief moment where the person that she was now in Britain collided with the person she had been in America. It was in these moments, too, that thoughts of Harry would come into her mind. She wondered what he was doing, and if he was thinking of her. What had he thought of the photo Hermione had sent, and would he want to dance with her like this? Would he hate Theo for the possessive way he held her hips? Would his glasses fog up in a club like this?

 

She looked down at her toes, allowing herself a moment to giggle at the thought of Harry here, glasses foggy and hands knotted loosely in the small of her back, holding her close but not in a possessive way—it didn’t seem his style. His smooth jaw resting against her temple as they rocked back and forth, rarely speaking. It wouldn’t have felt necessary. She could imagine him there so clearly that she almost felt that it, too, was a memory resurfacing. Briefly, she wished it were. Memories were still coming back to her in the night, and she knew her body was expecting a few more this evening—typically she was in bed by this time, and her body had gotten used to the cycle. Often, before bed, she could feel a deep sense of foreshadowing in her gut, like her body was preparing for the trauma of remembering. She wondered briefly what the memories would be tonight, and whether they would be happy or sad—hers or Elizabeth’s.

 

The music transitioned again, and she came back to the moment, recognizing the song as Theo brought her closer to him with his hand resting on her lower back. The cologne he was wearing filled her nose, and she felt a little light-headed. He was looking at her with those intense eyes, wrinkled slightly at the corners as if he had been alive longer than seventeen years. She looked away, then back, and away again, always smiling and feeling coy—unable to admit to him that she was thinking of another boy, quite different than him.

 

“Do you remember that time I snuck you out of your house, and we were at the park? Down the street?” His breath was hot on her neck, and she suddenly realized how hot she was. Her arms felt slick in her jacket, and she became aware of small beads of sweat on her chest. She could feel her brain working diligently, but she shook her head, unable to bring the memory forth or the words. Suddenly, everyone felt crowded in beside her. Unfamiliar faces looked ghoulish in the light, and she could feel her heart rate increasing, caused either by the beat in her chest or the music—it wasn’t clear. She was drunker than she had thought, she realized, feeling unsteady on her feet.

 

“Of course you remember,” He insisted, leaning closer, “I couldn’t help myself.”

 

The otherwise innocuous phrase felt like physical impact, as if Theo had struck her across the face. The room spun a little, and she felt herself totter backwards. She knew she would have fallen if his arms hadn’t tensed around her in response. His drink sloshed out of the plastic cup he was holding, and she could feel the lukewarm whiskey run down her back and onto her legs. Theo looked suddenly more aware and less intoxicated. His mouth moved, but she couldn’t hear him—there was only silence now—and the edge of her vision was shadowy. The darkness crept further into her frame of view, until she couldn’t see anything clearly, and then there was nothing.

 


 

Evelyn was sitting in the chair that had last held Sirius Black. Time move differently now. It was unclear to her how long the group had been gone. She stared into the fire, but didn’t really watch it. She wondered briefly where Elizabeth was, but didn’t really want to know. Everything around her felt quiet, though she was certain she wasn’t the only one in Grimmauld Place just then.

 

Her suspicions were confirmed when a great clatter erupted from the kitchen, and Molly Weasley exclaimed. Evelyn tried to ignore the sudden ruckus, but it gained in its noise and the commotion turned into pandemonium. A small group of the witches and wizards she’d seen leave had suddenly returned, and were forced into the room onto couches or quickly conjured cots. She must have been so still that for some time she went unnoticed.

 

“It was only an Impediment Jinx, Molly,” A man was saying gruffly, swatting away the woman, “The landing hurt more than anything.”

 

Molly looked suspicious, and summoned ice from the kitchen in response. She shoved it into the man’s hands. “Lie there then while I tend to the others.”

 

“Tonks was hit with the same, but she’s gotten it worse. She’s been knocked unconscious, and I think we may have to take her to St. Mungo’s.” A tall man who Evelyn had heard called Kingsley earlier that day was explaining as he stood beside a cot, where he had placed a slight woman with vivid purple hair that matched the bruise forming on her cheek.

 

Molly nodded, looking attentively at the woman for a moment before turning to look at Kingsley with pursed lips, “And you?”

 

“Bellatrix hit me with a curse—I’m not sure what it was, but it was painful. I felt a little unsteady on my feet, but I think I’ll be okay.”

 

“I’ll fix you something,” Molly said, looking validated with action. “And the others? Where’s Dumbledore? And Remus and Sirius?”

 

Evelyn noticed immediately the way darkness fell over Kingsley’s eyes and those of the other man, and she was sure Molly noticed it too, particularly as silence spread between them.

 

Kingsley was the first to speak. “Albus stayed behind with the children—they’ll be taken back to the school to be treated by Poppy. Ginny sprained her ankle, so you’ll probably want to head to Hogwarts to check on her as soon as Arthur can be ready. The Ministry arrived, and was arresting many of the Death Eaters that had been incapacitated. Remus was going to stay there, and sweep the department with them to ensure it’s done right. We-we can’t be too careful.”

 

Evelyn was surprised by the slight stutter, as Kingsley didn’t hold himself like a man who was unsure of his words. Then, she realized, the issue was that he wasn’t sure how to say the next part. In his stumbling, the other man inserted himself, speaking frankly. “And Black was killed.”

 


 

There were familiar voices, but she couldn’t place the sounds. It was dark and her vision was blurry. Someone said, “We’ve got to get her out of here. She could be sick.”

 

And someone else said, “No. It’s not like that. This has happened before—didn’t she tell you?”

 

She was moving, but it wasn’t her legs or her arms. Her body felt heavy, and she was trying to focus but she couldn’t. All of her joints felt stiff, and her head throbbed. This was familiar pain, she knew, this was remembering.

 


 

Later that same evening, Molly convinced Kingsley and the other man who had been identified as Moody to take the woman, who had also been identified as Tonks, to St. Mungo’s. She felt the healers there would want to check out all of their injuries, but she was most concerned with Tonks, who had woken only for a few minutes to sputter some nonsense about a watch before drifting back into fitful unconsciousness. They were worried she may have been concussed, but wanted to ensure the spell that had hit her wasn’t causing any latent damage.

 

After they left, the house was quiet again, and Molly tried to occupy her hands while she waited for Albus, Remus, or another Order member to arrive. She cast sidelong looks at Evelyn, who had remained quiet all through the various conversations that had taken place in that room that afternoon. Evelyn knew that Molly would eventually have to leave as well to check on her daughter. Her husband had come and gone already, and Molly had told him she’d be along—as soon as someone arrived to be with Evelyn.

 

She resented this treatment, as if she was too young to take care of herself. She resented Molly’s watchful eye, which felt simultaneously mothering and pitying. She wasn’t surprised that Elizabeth kept to her room; it was probably easier that way.

 

Footsteps in the hall a few moments later brought both Remus Lupin and Albus Dumbledore into the sitting room. Both men looked tired, and sadness hung off of Remus like a cloak. He had carried that around with him since Evelyn’s arrival, each day looking heavier. She wanted to reach out to him, the one familiar face in the chaos that had come since Evelyn’s aunts had left, but she didn’t move—she was stopped by the change in his eyes when he looked at her.

 

“Molly, you can go.” Albus said softly and without much pretext. It was clear she had been about to say something else, but instead she conceded and left the room.

 

“Evelyn,” Remus said soft, clearing his throat. “Could you please go get Elizabeth? Your aunts are on their way. We have something to tell you.”

 

When Evelyn returned with her sister a few moments later, the room had taken an even more somber tone. Both of her aunts had joined the men, and Evelyn was shocked to see her Aunt Minnie looking pale and resting on a walking stick.

 

“Has something happened?” She said softly, eying her aunt. She had spoken so little these past days that her voice sounded foreign to her.

 

“Nothing to worry about, dear,” Her aunt said softly, but unconvincingly. Demeter eyed her sister, and it was clear that she disagreed with her decision to withhold whatever had happened, but she said nothing. “We have more important matters to discuss.”

 

Elizabeth looked confused, and Evelyn felt that must have been the same expression she was wearing. Albus Dumbledore spoke next, saying, “Please take a seat” and gesturing to the couch, where they were joined by their aunts. Demeter placed an arm around Evelyn, and she wondered briefly if they were being braced for some kind of impact.

 

“When I was searching the Department of Mysteries with Ministry officials earlier, I was allowed to enter the Hall of Prophecy. Most of the prophecies were destroyed during the battle that took place today,” Remus paused, looking closely at the four women seated in front of him as if to see if any of them would object or insert themselves. No one did. “The protective spells that were cast on the prophecies had been lifted so that officials could aid in the cleanup. They were asked not to use magic in an attempt to sift through the remnants more carefully; the Unspeakables were frantic to discover what had been preserved and what could be salvaged.

 

“I found one—one that managed to survive the battle. When I saw the names, I couldn’t help myself.” It was then that Remus reached into the deep pocket of his robe and produced an orb that seemed to glow dimly in his hand. It had a spider web crack on the side facing them, and a few scuffs near the place where Remus’s thumb met the orb. It looked a bit strange to Evelyn, who immediately saw the label that Remus’s other hand had turned to face them. In the firelight, Evelyn could see written on the label four brief rows of text:

 

S.P.T to A.I.M.C. and I.W.C.

Evelyn Castell,

Elizabeth Castell,

and (?)  

 

Seeing her name there, next to her sister’s, felt impossible.

 

“Whose initials are those?” Elizabeth said softly, turning to Minerva who was seated next to her.

 

“I believe the first belong to the Divination professor at the school,” Albus responded first, followed by their aunt.

 

“The others are your parents—Athena Isobel McGonagall Castell and Ian William Castell.”

 

It was quiet for several minutes before Evelyn had the courage to ask, “Did you know? Any of you?” Quiet followed again as the adults exchanged glances, eyeing one another and avoiding Evelyn and Elizabeth’s identical eyes.

 

“I knew about this prophecy.” The sentence came so quietly and confidently from her elder aunt that Evelyn didn’t even initially register surprise. “Athena told me about it. In fact, Sybil made it on the grounds of Hogwarts.”

 

“You can’t be serious—“ Demeter sounded more indignant than Evelyn felt. She looked sideways at her sister, who seemed to be staring pointedly at her knees.

 

“Demeter, Athena begged me not to tell anyone—and you were still so young. It was only 1981, the girls hadn’t even turned one yet.”

 

“Had mother died?”

 

“It had only been a few weeks. You had just come to live with me, and Athena had come to visit with Ian for the Easter Holiday so that we could celebrate together. We decided to stay at Hogwarts, because you were just getting use to being there with me.” With an encouraging nod from Albus, Minerva continued. “Athena and Ian were taking the girls for a walk on the grounds. They could barely toddle, but it was a warm day and they wanted to get some fresh air after Easter supper. When they came back to my quarters, they were so shaken—I’d never seen Ian like that. You know how he was. That’s when they told me.”

 

“I cannot believe you didn’t feel the need to tell me this! Or that Athena kept it from me—and look at Remus, it’s apparent he didn’t know either! All of these people, we could have protected them. We could have used the prophecy to better understand the danger.” Demeter was struggling for words, trying to find a way to understand why this had been withheld from her.

 

Her eldest sister reached across the backs of their nieces, just barely able to touch the tips of her fingers onto Demeter’s shoulder. The look on her face was sad and soft. In this light, Aunt Minnie looked much older than the last time they’d seen her. “No, Demeter, no. It wouldn’t have made a difference. As far as I can tell, the prophecy is about something else—it’s about the girls, themselves, not about Athena or her family generally.”

 

Tears had leaked out from the corners of Demeter’s eyes, and Evelyn felt it was necessary to comfort her aunt in some way. She placed her hand on her aunt’s knee, and smiled at her tightly. Grief seemed to settle on all of their shoulders, and Evelyn hated the way it had sat around them since their arrival. It was beginning to fell unbearable; the weight alone was at times too much for her, and she felt suffocated by it, as though her body hadn’t been built to properly deal with all of these emotions.

 

After Remus offered Demeter a handkerchief and she spent a few moments dabbing her eyes, Evelyn looked at Dumbledore and asked softly, “Can we hear it then? If it’s about us, I want to hear it.”

 

“Are you sure? Once you have heard it, it cannot be unheard.”

 

Evelyn looked briefly at Elizabeth, who hadn’t spoken or moved throughout the conversation, and then at Demeter, who looked small and angry next to her on the couch. Then she looked back at Dumbledore, at the aging face that was increasingly familiar to her, and nodded sharply. “We should all know, I think.”

 

Dumbledore nodded, lips closed tightly together. He motioned towards Remus with his hand, and Remus held out the glowing orb to Evelyn.

 

“You’ll both have to take it.”

 

It was then that Elizabeth looked up. Evelyn turned towards her sister, the orb cradled in her hands, and Elizabeth placed her hands gingerly under her sister’s hands so that they, together, held the orb. Immediately, the light coming from within the orb strengthened and an unfamiliar voice rose along with the light.

 

“Born under Gemini, two with a weight in the war… One… As Helen did Troy… The other… Clytemnestra… Loved as she was loved, betrayed as she was betrayed… Either must die at the hand of the other for neither can live while the other survives… Beware the Goddess of Discord… Betrayed as she was betrayed—”

 

When the voice drifted away and the prophecy ended, Evelyn lifted her eyes from the glowing orb in her hands and met the eyes of her sister. White spots of light danced across her vision, and no one seemed to be breathing.

 


 

Almost four thousand miles away, a boy with a lightening bolt scar sat up in bed. Pain rippled across his forehead, and his breath was the only jagged sound in the dark bedroom. He could feel his pajama top cling to his chest, as he tried to throw off his covers and orient himself to the room. The pain was too much, however, and his feet slipped on the cold floorboards.

 

The loud thudding of Harry’s knees meeting the floor brought Ron to the door, “Mate?”

 

“Something’s happened—” was all Harry could manage.

 

 

 

 


Author's Note: I'm really excited to share this chapter with you all, and to see what you think of this development! I've been working towards this moment, which I know has been alluded to throughout the series thus far. I know the suspense of the prophecy isn't necessarily the driver of the plot, but it is a major component! Let me know what you think... or what you fear! There's definitely a mess ahead for Evelyn and Elizabeth. Always, Antigone xx

Credits: The line "either must die at the hand of the other for neither can live while the other survives" is originally from the work of JK Rowling. The banner was created by me.

 

 



Chapter 28: Lucky Bird
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

“He was happy about something. He knows something now that he’s wanted to know for some time. I’m not sure if he intended to let me know—to taunt me—or if he lost control of himself for a moment.”

 

Harry had just finished recounting the episode from the previous night to Dumbledore, who had arrived at breakfast in response to an owl from Mrs. Weasley. He felt his frustration fade to nervousness as he locked eyes with the headmaster, but he hesitated to say more. Their lessons had been going so well, and he worried briefly that he had disappointed Dumbledore.

 

“Professor?”

 

“I fear that this may mean Voldemort has learned of something we’ve been attempting to keep from him. There is little that can be done if he has—but I’ll need to leave immediately, Harry, to attempt to verify my suspicion. I’m sorry I won’t be able to tell you more just now.” He was already standing to leave, “But I will send for you when we return from the holidays to resume our lessons. Perhaps I will have news for you then.

 

“Thank you for the tea, Molly,” was the last sentence out of his mouth before he disappeared with a pop. Mrs. Weasley looked briefly at the blank wall that had been behind Albus Dumbledore before he had disapparated, and then looked at Harry. The tight smile on her face did nothing to reassure him.

 

He left the kitchen shortly after the headmaster’s departure, and sought out Ron. In moments like these, he would prefer the quiet rationale of Hermione, and he wished there was an easy way to reach her just then. He found, instead, his moody friend sitting on his bed, staring at the photo they had received the previous night, just before bed.

 

Ron didn’t even look up as Harry entered. Instead, he immediately started in on the line of questions they had hashed over after the note had arrived from Hermione with the enclosed photo. A group of mostly unfamiliar faces were huddling together, trying to stay focused on the camera but every once in awhile adjusting their hair or leaning over to the person next to them. At one point a guy with round cheeks and a bright smile elbowed Hermione, one of two familiar faces in the frame, and they laughed together as she tried to maintain her balance.

 

Harry was actually appreciative of the distraction, and allowed his eyes to wander across the faces in the Polaroid. The girls were nice looking, and he looked at them each in turn before shifting his attention to Evelyn, who was standing on the other side of the round-cheeked guy. She was wearing a dress he had never seen before, but that he had a deep appreciation for, as she looked almost glamorous—and very American. The material looked like silk or satin (he didn’t really know) and he wondered briefly what it would have felt like to touch it.

 

As he contemplated that image, the guy standing slightly behind her looked out of the corner of his eye—and Harry swore they must have been thinking the same thing based on the look that came over his face. Then, the guy draped an arm around Evelyn and pulled her close in a half-embrace. She took a step back, trying to focus on the camera still, but laughing a little in the way she had only recently begun to do around Harry. Her eyes briefly moved from the camera to the guy, and she looked easy. That must be him, Harry thought to himself, his jaw tensing involuntarily.

 

“Who is this guy? And what’s with the look on her face?” Ron was saying, his words sputtering a bit and his general countenance cross.

 

“She looks happy,” Harry admitted, grimacing. Before Evelyn had left, Harry had felt certain that they were on the verge of something. He wasn’t quite sure what, but it had felt as if there had been a charge between the two of them since the end of the term and he had even thought to himself since her departure that if she had remained for just a day longer that something would have started between them. He couldn’t put his finger on it exactly, didn’t know how to detail it, but he had been certain that she had noticed that charge between them, too. He had even thought that the morning of her departure, she was attempting to communicate this unidentified thing. A look had passed over her face, which she had so intently focused on him. Yet, he couldn’t quite understand it and felt as though neither of them had the vocabulary yet to know what was happening. He had been eager for her to return to ask—to finally be direct.

 

And now, she looked easy with him. On her way out with him.

 

Harry felt foolish.

 

“Bloody hell,” Ron huffed, not realizing they were talking about different girls but summarizing Harry’s feelings neatly.

 


 

Evelyn woke alone in the bed she had shared the previous night with Hermione. The room was empty, and it must have been close to dawn because the light had begun to change.

 

She tried to move, and was struck by how tight and sore her body felt. Briefly, she felt dizzy, but assumed she was just dehydrated. The entire night was there with her, and she knew exactly what had happened. She’d had another episode, another remembering. She wondered briefly what had caused it, and if it had been that moment with Theo or if it had been something Elizabeth had experienced herself.

 

The memory hung heavy over her, and she knew—this had been the memory that had convinced Aunt Minnie to allow them to pursue the amnesia charm. This had been the memory that had skewed everything after her parents’ deaths. This had to be the one they warned her about. It had brought about a motive for their murders, and it had brought about a general cloud of fear and distrust. Who else could have known about the prophecy? How did they know, and—more importantly—how much did they know?

 

Those had been the immediate questions, and when the adults seemed too nervous, too scared, too sad, they had asked Evelyn and Elizabeth to leave. She could still feel the indignation that had filled her when Aunt Demeter had begged them for just a few minutes for the adults to talk amongst themselves.

 

It hadn’t been the earnestness in her voice that had made her concede, however. It had been the masks of worry sported by every adult in the room. Each was different: Remus’s sad eyes strained and defeated, almost blank in their stare as she looked at him. Aunt Demeter’s lips tightened so much that they looked white, fear in the wings of her glances as she looked around the room, searching for details. Aunt Minnie wearing the vacant stare of someone that has heard something before but had forgotten key details and was now confronted with the weight of those details. Albus Dumbledore, somber behind his half-moon glasses, wearing the blankest expression of the lot.

 

She couldn’t believe she had been able to suppress those eyes, even with magic. As she lay in the bed, body tired and sore, light slowly changing, she felt those eyes on her still. A cold fear was spreading across her—not just from the memory. She feared Elizabeth, and what she might do with such a memory.

 

A rustling on the other side of the bedroom door interrupted her thoughts. Someone was trying too hard to be quiet, and was instead causing a decent amount of noise. The knob turned and the door slid open, a wedge of light coming into the room and crossing over her. She looked at the dark figure, her eyes taking a moment to adjust though she could tell immediately by the shape of the form that it was Hermione.

 

“You’re awake? Good.” She said softly, tiptoeing into the bedroom. The relief in her voice was evident. She took a seat on the edge of the bed, her face creased with concern. “How are you feeling?”

 

“It’s a little like last time, but not as bad. Honestly it feels mostly like a hangover.”

 

“Do you need anything?”

 

“I think I should get up, probably. I can get what I need.” Her limbs were reluctant to move as she raised herself up, and Hermione watched her closely, the concern still there. “In a minute.” She smiled hesitantly, relaxing back into her pillow.

 

Hermione moved onto the bed, carefully taking the place next to Evelyn that she had occupied the previous night. “Is this okay?”

 

“Of course—I’m sorry you felt like you couldn’t sleep here last night. Obviously it would have been fine.”

 

“No,” Hermione shook her head, “You were thrashing quite a bit. I was worried you were going to hurt yourself, actually, but the boys stayed and they-they held you down until you calmed.”

 

Shame settled over Evelyn, and she felt embarrassed. She would have preferred to be ridiculously drunk then to be the victim of an episode like this, and she hated that it had happened here. She had wanted this to be a vacation, a time away with her old friends, and she had almost felt returned to herself. But as soon as her guard was down, as soon as she stopped being vigilant, this happened.

 

“I feel so foolish.” She muttered, her cheeks warm.

 

“You shouldn’t—there’s no way you could have known. But your friends were a bit freaked out. You didn’t tell them, did you?”

 

“Not really—no.” Evelyn admitted, “I wasn’t ready to tell Lacey, and then I didn’t want to tell her while I was here. I just wanted to have fun. I wanted to feel like normal.”

 

“I don’t blame you,” Hermione admitted, “But I had to tell them—after you started seizing. They were thinking about taking you to the hospital, but I knew that it wouldn’t do any good. I had to tell them the amnesia charm, and everything that happened after Bonfire Night. I think Lacey and Theo were a bit upset with me…. I told them that part, too.”

 

“They would be,” Evelyn admitted, thinking on all the times they had been on her side, even when she had been wrong. May and Devon were much more logical, and Bobby chose to avoid conflict entirely if he could help it. “But they’ll get over it, once they know I’m okay.”

 

“They’ll be happy to know it, too. Theo sat up with you until four this morning. That was until Lacey’s mom demanded he get some sleep because it looked like you were finally resting. I was actually coming in to check on you. I didn’t know how long you’d be out for—after last time.”

 

Evelyn nodded, pausing for a few moments. She raised her hands to her face, rubbing her temples briefly. “I still feel like an idiot. I hate that this happened.”

 

“These people love you, Evie. Trust me, even if you didn’t think they did I can attest to it after staying up with them all night. You don’t have to feel that way here.” She paused, “I mean, I don’t think you have to feel that way at home either, but you definitely don’t have to feel that way here.” Her tone was flat and factual, and she looked at her friend out of the side of her eye with that look she gave professors in class when she knew she had the right answer.

 

Evelyn tried to let the feelings go, but it was with difficulty. She knew it would take some time, especially with the memory still hanging about her so heavily. She briefly contemplated telling Hermione about it, but hesitated. She knew that Hermione wanted to know; it was just in her nature. Curiosity was always there. But, she knew that she couldn’t tell her friend until she spoke with her aunts. Instead, she asked, “Can you tell me what happened? After I passed out.”

 

“What do you remember?”

 

“We were at that club, and we were dancing. I think you were dancing with Bobby, and I was talking to Theo. And I felt drunk, everyone was so close and it was hot and loud. He said something to me, about this time we snuck out together,” She paused, looking at the wall as she recounted, trying to use its blank surface to visualize the previous night. “He said something, and it was the craziest thing. Like last time, but different, if that makes sense. I could feel myself falling, but I think he caught me. I’m not sure, everything went black then.”

 

“Yeah, Theo essentially caught you. He kind of sunk to the ground with you. At first, we thought you passed out. Your body went rigid at first, and then it was almost like you were having a seizure. All these people were staring, and Theo didn’t know what to do. Merlin, none of us really did. At least last time, the professors had been there. They had handled it. This time, Bobby was the first one to get a sense of anything. He lifted you up, and we rushed you out of the club, back here, before any of the Muggles could call an ambulance. We were lucky there weren’t too many Muggles around—we turned down the first alley we could and apparated back here.

 

“I had to keep insisting you weren’t ill and we couldn’t take you anywhere. We just had to let you go, and make sure you didn’t hurt yourself unknowingly. But, once I told them the possible side effects, they were even more anxious. To think, you could have—” Hermione trailed off momentarily, and Evelyn realized she was holding her hand. Her friend’s fingers were cold. “We were really worried. All of us. I’m so glad it was only the night.”

 


 

Saturday and Sunday fled quickly after the drama of Friday night, and Evelyn was happy to remind her friends again and again that everything was fine and their plans should go on as they had originally intended. She was sore, but she wasn’t injured, and she was happy to walk around the District on Saturday and then devote herself to her girlfriends on Sunday. The girls were equally delighted to devote themselves to a spa treatment, which they agreed was probably best for Evelyn anyway.

 

In fact, it was the boys who wore worried faces long after the girls had relaxed. Bobby, who had carried her through the crowd on Friday night, still looked as though he was carrying her with him on Monday when he arrived for the goodbye dinner that Lacey’s parents had arranged. He hugged her upon arrival, holding on to her much longer than usual.

 

“Bobby, let her breathe!” Lacey joked, as she set wine glasses at the place settings around the table.

 

“Sorry, didn’t mean to squeeze too hard.”

 

“You never knew your own strength,” Evelyn joked, smiling up at him. His eyes were sad, and he didn’t chuckle, so she added, “I’m fine though, you know.”

 

“That’s what you keep saying.”

 

“You would know if she was lying,” a voice came from the other side of the room, and they both turned to see Theo standing there. In the other room, Evelyn could hear the familiar voices of May and Devon chattering just out of earshot. “Remember, she was always a complainer.”

 

“How sweet of you—and on my last night here!”

 

He moved towards her, enveloping her in his arms without response. She hugged him back, and tried not to think too much about his embrace or about what had happened the last time his arms had been around her. Theo’s arms had, in her previous life, been equated with safety and reassurance. She had often felt like she needed his embrace, and, while she still felt safe there, it lacked the spark that it used to carry with it. She didn’t feel dependent on him anymore.

 

When they pulled apart, he asked quietly so only she could hear, “You are okay, aren’t you?” He reached up to tuck a strand of hair behind her ear, and she noticed how his eyes had filled with affection. Bobby must have excused himself because she could hear him talking to May in the other room, and she was alone with Theo.

 

“I am,” Her voice was softer than she had intended, and she feared she sounded fragile. She didn’t feel fragile. She didn’t want him to think she was. She rolled her shoulders down her back and tried to sound as strong as she felt. “You don’t have to worry about me.”

 

The smile that appeared on his face was a bit sardonic in the corners, and he said simply, “I’ll worry about you the rest of my life, Evie.”

 

She didn’t have a chance to reply before her friends came into the dining room, led by Lacey who was telling them about the meal and immediately began to point out seats for everyone. Evelyn was happy to have a reason to move away from Theo, whose words were still ringing in her ears. She found her seat between Hermione and Lacey, across from Theo, who had Bobby on his left, across from Hermione, and his brother on his right, across from Lacey and next to May. Lacey’s mother arrived, dishes hovering behind her, which she guided expertly to the tabletop with her wand. Lacey’s father and younger brother also came into the room, the latter taking the seat next to Lacey while their parents took the opposing seats at the ends of the table.

 

“It has always been my pleasure to welcome Lacey’s friends into our home,” Miranda Coupe began, instantly grabbing everyone’s attention. She didn’t seem to notice the many adolescent eyes locked on her; instead, she was looking lovingly at her husband as she spoke. “From the moment May introduced Evie to Lacey, I knew the three of you would be friends. You seemed to compliment one another. I’m sure the boys, who found the three of you a few years later, would agree. You were already a set by then.”

 

She paused briefly, her posture changing slightly as she continued. “I know this past year has been incredibly difficult for you, Evie. It has been difficult for us—and we have had to deal with only a fraction of it. I will admit that part of my reason for having you come to us for the holiday was simply to get eyes on you, to make sure you were coping okay.”

 

Evelyn could feel her cheeks burn as Lacey’s mother continued. She tried to keep her eyes on Miranda, knowing that if she looked at any of her friends she risked crying.

 

Miranda continued, “And you are—I think. You arrived here a few days ago, different only in that you have become more mature, more sincere, and stronger. You have taken this horrible thing and grown around it with the grace that I always knew you to possess. I am so proud of the young woman sitting here with us, of all of you really. Thank you for coming back to us, if only for a little while, and for keeping us in your life despite the changes that have come to pass. There are more changes ahead, but I know Lacey and May—and Hermione—will be there to support you, and love you, and help you endure.”

 

She raised her glass, which had filled with red wine while she spoke, and Evelyn, brushing a few tears from the corners of her eyes, lifted her own glass in response along with all of the others seated at the table. “To Evelyn, a dear friend and a member of our family. And to the changes ahead for all of you young people. Let you navigate them with grace, love, and the support of one another.”

 

“Here, here!” Lacey’s father added as glasses clattered together across the table.

 

 

Their full bellies at the end of the meal didn’t stifle the effects of the wine, and by the time the plates had been magically cleared, they were all giggling needlessly as they shared stories from their lives, past and present, as well as recent happenings around Maryland, London, and the magical world. The adults and Lacey’s younger brother were the first to excuse themselves from the table, with Miranda returning an hour later to hush them. By then all the wine bottles seemed to be empty, and everyone was hoarse with laughter.

 

It was exactly the way Evelyn wanted to end her time in America. The drama of Friday night was gone, and only good memories remained for them to remind each other of. By the end of the night, when the guests were departing, Evelyn was in such high spirits that she couldn’t even reject Theo’s advance. He kissed her full on the lips, the same kiss as she’d received so many times. But when she pulled away, it all felt different. She smiled at him, the high of the evening fading slightly, and said, “Thank you for reminding me of that, too,” with her hand on the curve of his cheek.

 

She felt somehow that this would be the last time she ever saw Theo, and she felt that he knew this, too.

 

In bed, next to Hermione, she could think only of green eyes and the way they flashed with delight and determination during dueling practice.

 


 

A cold eastward wind struck Evelyn and Hermione across the face as they exited the International Floo Station the next day. Evelyn could feel soot from the floo trip stuck to her face, most likely where her tears had yet to dry. Leaving Lacey was harder than leaving the others. Though she loved them all, Lacey was her best friend—and promising to write didn’t change the fact that they would be so far removed from one another.

 

However, being back in London helped more than she thought it would. She hadn’t realized how homesick she had been until she saw her aunts waiting for them next to the information desks. An identical smile had come over Evelyn’s, Demeter’s, and Minerva’s faces as they had welcomed her with tight hugs. Demeter had placed quick kisses on each of her niece’s cheeks, and Minerva had fixed her hair. Both were glowing with gratitude.

 

Now they crossed the street, together with Hermione, headed back towards Grimmauld Place. They took the long way, walking instead of using magical transportation, and people bustled around them. A Muggle woman was purchasing some flowers from a vendor on the street, and she cheerfully wished him a happy new year.

 

Evelyn loved the feeling of the last day of the year. Particularly this year, it felt as though so many things were behind her—good and bad—and so much that was unknown was ahead of her. She had decided to wait until the new year to tell her aunts everything that had come back to her in Maryland, knowing in her gut that it was the memory they had warned her of and wanting one last day to pretend it wasn’t.

 

“I believe some of your friends are planning on attending a party this evening,” Demeter said cheerfully, looking at Evelyn and Hermione out of the corner of her eye. “Harry and Ron were getting ready to leave when we left to meet you. They were going to help set up.”

 

Hermione looked mildly surprised, and Evelyn said, “Yeah, Harry told me before we left. I was hoping you might spare me tonight.”

 

“You mean to say that you have gone away from us for almost a week, and now want to bypass telling us about your travels so that you could spend one more night away?” Minnie asked, a chiding tone to her voice.

 

“Well, yes, that is what I mean to say.” Evelyn smiled her most winning smile.

 

Minnie and Demeter exchanged a look, and ceded without further rebuttals. They were delighted to have their niece back, looking happier and lighter than she had in quite some time, and couldn’t have said no to something so ordinary as teenagers celebrating the new year.

 

“You’ll probably want to rest a bit first, though. That’s all I’ll say.” Demeter noted, gesturing with her pointer finger to the bags that hung a little under Evelyn and Hermione’s eyes. They had gotten up early to pack their things and to have breakfast with Lacey’s family. Coupled with the time change, the whole day felt truncated and endless at the same time.

 

“I think that’s a fair stipulation.” Hermione said, shifting her bag on her shoulder. “It’s been a long trip, and I didn’t know we had plans for the evening!”

 

 

Evelyn was happy to find Grimmauld Place a little quieter, but just the same. She shared a small lunch with her aunts, Hermione, and Molly Weasley before agreeing to take a few hours to rest before they left. Hermione promised to wake her in an hour or so, giving them enough time to get ready before heading over to the twins’ shop.

 

Unfortunately, Hermione was only almost perfect. It felt as though Evelyn had only just laid her head down on her pillow when the lights were thrown up, the curtains pushed open, and a frenzied voice came to her, at first gurgled and then clear: “We’ve overslept! Evelyn, get up!”

 

She felt groggy and uncertain as she squinted into the bright room, the silhouette obviously belonging to Hermione but the shapes not clear to her yet. “Overslept?” She muttered, rubbing her eyes. There must have still been soot in the corners of them, because they felt gritty and she wished briefly that she had showered before lying down.

 

“Overslept! It’s nearly eleven!”

 

“In the morning?” She was still confused.

 

“At night! New Years!”

 

Everything clicked into place suddenly, and Evelyn felt her body moving faster, meeting Hermione’s pace. They needed to be cleaner, and dressed, and they needed to go—and it had to be done very quickly.

 


 

Harry looked idly at the streamers hanging from the ceiling. They looked festive and orderly in their rows, which was surprising only because the twins had been the ones to fix them in place.

 

The flat above the shop was a small two-bedroom with a large living room and a tiny, forgettable kitchen. It was made smaller by the number of people they’d invited, and by the large number of balloons that filled the spaces left between the rows of streamers.

 

Harry stood by the punchbowl, which was very obviously spiked, sipping his drink and only half-listening to the conversation between Seamus and Dean. He let his eyes scan over the crowd, wondering if the girls had arrived and he just hadn’t known. They hadn’t.

 

Somehow, he felt as though he would know as soon as Evelyn entered the room.

 

He spied Ron and Lavender a few feet away. Lavender was doing most of the talking, and Ron was doing most of the drinking. Ginny was near her brothers, who were talking to Lee Jordan animatedly. He didn’t feel inclined to join any of those conversations, and watched instead as people moved around the room, in and out of other conversations that he also didn’t feel the need to be apart of.

 

“What’s with the long face, Harry?” A soft voice came to him over his shoulder, and his stomach jumped briefly at the unfamiliarity of the voice. However, as he turned he realized the American accent wasn’t there. It wasn’t her. Instead, it was Serenity Savior. Her sharp gray eyes were giving him the once over as she poured herself some punch. He had never talked much to the Ravenclaw, but was familiar with her to know she was a nice enough person. He knew that Evelyn considered her a friend, and realized it would probably be best to make small talk with her.

 

“Hermione and Evelyn were supposed to be back from their trip by now, but they haven’t arrived. I was just wondering where they might be.” He said, and then added, “It’s not necessarily safe, you know? These days.” It sounded silly, but he didn’t want to let on that he was waiting for either of them.

 

“Yeah, Evelyn wrote to me while she was gone—just a few lines, but she did seem to think she’d make it here. I’m surprised I haven’t seen her yet, but I’m sure there’s nothing to worry about.” And then, more quietly, “I’m sure if there was, we would have received warning from the Order by now.”

 

He nodded; his jaw tightened as he realized that the worry he had spoken of wasn’t without foundation. “You’re right,” he ceded, though he still felt uneasy.

 

“Your friend doesn’t look like he’s having the best time.” Serenity said suddenly, changing the subject and turning to face the same direction he was. He smiled at her astuteness, and agreed. Ron looked quite miserable. “I’ve heard a few funny stories about them.”

 

“I’d love to know them myself,” Harry said, feeling himself relax a little. Though he hadn’t felt like talking to anyone, Serenity was proving to be a nice conversation partner. It helped to distract him from the time that passed. “I’ve avoided their company as often as possible. It’s been easier than you might imagine—without a girlfriend of my own, Lavender doesn’t find me very interesting.”

 

“Lavender doesn’t find much very interesting.” Serenity said softly, sipping her punch. “But, unfortunately I don’t think I can tell you these stories—they were shared in confidence.”

 

“Evelyn—or Hermione?”

 

“Evelyn, of course. I haven’t talked much to Hermione outside of Ancient Runes. I keep a low profile. I’m more of an observer, you might say.”

 

“Really?” He raised his brows, turning away only to refill his own cup of punch. “What have you observed tonight?”

 

“Quite a bit,” when she smiled, just the right corner of her mouth perked up. It made her look mysterious. “Should I tell you, or should we just wait to see what happens?”

 

Harry never had a chance to reply as Christian Graves appeared at his side at that moment, his hand extended to Serenity. “You demanded to be dancing into 1997. I’m here to meet your demands.”

 

“You are an excellent friend,” Serenity returned, throwing back the rest of her punch and taking his hand. “I’ll fill you in later, Harry,” was all she said in departure. He watched her pulled away, noting they’d have a full half-hour to dance before the New Year was ushered in. Christian spun her awkwardly, before pulling her into his chest. The pair laughed heartily as they teetered back and forth among more somber-looking couples on the barely-formed dance floor. The space was tight, and Christian held Serenity close to him as they chatted and swayed.

 

His eyes flitted to the doorway briefly, and then the fireplace, before looking back to the punchbowl. He busied himself with filling his cup, aware of Ginny standing next to him.

 

“Top me up?” She said sweetly, smiling at him. He raised the ladle again, filling her cup.

 

“I probably shouldn’t have done that,” he said, smiling back at her. “Your brothers won’t like that you’ve been into the spiked punch.”

 

“Oh Harry,” she chuckled, “I spiked the punch.”

 

He choked a bit on his drink, laughing spasmodically and shaking his head. “You know, that actually doesn’t surprise me.” He could feel his head lighten with the drink, and he was struck suddenly by Ginny herself—the way the light shined on her hair, and the way her eyes sparkled mischievously. She leaned in close to him and knocked her shoulder against his, the way she did sometimes as they were leaving Quidditch practice. “You’ve really grown up, Gin.”

 

“Took you long enough to notice.” She didn’t move away from him, instead leaning against him with her eyes locked on him. Her hand was resting on his arm, and he wasn’t quite sure when she’d placed it there.

 

“Did you want to dance, Harry?” She said after a few moments of silence. She hadn’t taken her eyes off him, and he felt flattered knowing that he held her full attention. A few others had moved to join the couples on the dance floor since Serenity and Christian had moved there, and Harry agreed, disinterested in dancing itself but happy to have something to do with someone who suddenly seemed more interesting—and more interested.

 


 

With little time to spare, Evelyn had opted for one of her go-to outfits—a two-piece ensemble that paired a matching black tank, cut to her waist, with an A-line skirt that allowed a slip of skin to show between the set. She threw her favorite leather jacket on and some heeled mules, tousling her hair over the collar and flying from the room and into Hermione’s. She had cast a few glamor charms, but went with a mostly nude look, despite how tired she must have looked.

 

Hermione’s floor was littered with outfits, but she had settled on a floral print sheath dress that stopped above her knee with long sleeves. It was fitted across the bodice, accenting her tiny waist. Her hair too was casually thrown about, looking mostly worse for wear.

 

“Good enough,” Hermione said breathlessly, passing Evelyn in the doorway and leading them down the stairs. It took them only a few minutes to check in with Evelyn’s aunts and Molly Weasley before they were allowed to depart, forced to take the Floo Network for lack of a better option.

 

Their good fortune in arriving just before midnight was hampered further by being forced to knock at the twins’ grate, which had been locked to prevent party crashing. They happily obliged in letting them in, though it took a long time for their knock to be answered. As they dusted themselves off on the hearth, they realized why. Loud music was playing, and couples were dancing off to the side. George and Fred were quite tipsy, and Fred fumbled with the lock on the grate for a full minute after they had exited before properly welcoming them.

 

Hermione attempted to help him while Evelyn embraced George, smiling widely and thanking him for the invitation.

 

“Of course I’d want you here,” he replied, looking at her with eyes warmed with liquor. “Can I get you something? It’s almost midnight—a drink would be in order, if you ask me.”

 

“I would happily take a drink,” she replied, scanning the room. She noticed Ron immediately, tucked away into a corner with Lavender Brown, but she didn’t notice Harry or Serenity, who said she’d be attending in her most recent letter. She gestured to Hermione to follow her, which successfully drew her to the opposite side of the room as Ron, and she brought Fred along with her, the other Weasley twin laughing as he exchanged banter with Hermione.

 

George handed them both cups, brimming with punch, and Evelyn’s eyes widened as she brought it to her mouth, trying carefully to sip without spilling. They threw back quick drinks, George claiming it was their duty to “catch up,” and Hermione obliging after finally spying Ron when she scanned the room.

 

They had thrown back three or four drinks in only a few minutes, and Evelyn was already feeling the effects when George reached towards her, brushing a piece of hair from her face and saying just loud enough to be heard over the music, “How were your travels?”

 

“We had a good time, but I’m happy to be home.”

 

“Home, eh?” He raised a brow, his smile widening. He looked warm all over, and she knew it was the firewhisky.

 

“Yeah, starting to feel that way.”

 

“Feel your way, eh?” Fred interjected, snickering, “Not a bad idea. What do you think, Hermione?”

 

“You want to feel away?” Hermione hadn’t been able to hear him well over the music, and she furrowed her brow, looking critical.

 

“Yes!” Fred replied, laughing. “With you. There are no desirable dance partners left. Let me give you a twirl—I promise I’m as light on my feet as Ron.” He elbowed her with the last part, delight dawning on his face as she blushed. “And I promise not to let my hands roam,” he added cheekily.

 

She glanced briefly at the clock on the wall, noting that the time was ticking away and that it would soon be midnight. Looking once at Evelyn, who tried to look encouraging, she agreed, allowing him to lead her to a space nearby between a set of swaying couples.

 

“Should we follow their lead?” Evelyn asked, setting her empty cup down and grinning at George. She had been hoping to find Harry upon her arrival, but the room was crowded and she didn’t want to miss the countdown.

 

George took her hand wordlessly, as if he had been waiting for the opportunity, and led her to a spot near Hermione and his brother. As he began to move her around in a basic two-step, she gained a better view of the other dancers and was happy to see Serenity and Christian dancing (a bit goofily). She waved enthusiastically as soon as she caught their attention, though they were too far apart to talk to just then. They carried on a bit, miming back and forth—including Christian singing along to the record that was playing—before Evelyn turned her eyes back to George.

 

“Thank you for inviting my friends,” she said softly.

 

“I wanted you to come.”

 

“Really? Why was that?”

 

“Because, out of everyone here, you’re the one in most need of a new year.”

 

She paused, locking eyes with him as she digested his words. He was tipsy—maybe even drunk—but he was honest. She wasn’t angered or shocked by his reasoning however; she knew he was right. Cocking her head to the side a bit, and keeping her eyes on him, she nodded, “That is probably true.”

 

He grinned toothily, spinning her away from him and then bringing her back to his chest. After a moment of silence, he said, “You’re a lucky bird, you know that?”

 

“Lucky? That doesn’t seem right, especially after your comment on my year,” she retorted, making light of it.

 

“No, it’s an old superstition, I think. My mother is one for wives’ tales, and I think it use to be that the last to arrive—the last footer—was sometimes called the Lucky Bird. And they’ve got to knock to be let in. That brings luck to the household.” His brow wrinkled as he tried to recall, “I think that’s how it went. Close to it, at least.”

 

She thought it over, “I like it. I hope it’s an indication of the year to come. I’ll be a lucky bird.”

 

“I think so,” he replied. He held her gaze in silence after that, quieter than she’d ever witnessed him to be. Though, to be fair, it was only for a few seconds—as the room soon erupted with the traditional New Year’s countdown.

 

When the crowd reached one, fireworks burst across the ceiling and the fading sparks were transfigured into confetti, falling gently on the crowd as everyone laughed and shouted and exchanged kisses. George briefly pecked her cheek, pulling back tentatively to ensure he didn’t anger her. She smiled, reaching up to knock some confetti out of his hair. It was a nice gesture, but it wasn’t the one she wanted.

 

She looked first at Hermione, who was laughing as Fred spoke to her in an affected French accent and gave her sloppy kisses on both of her cheeks. Then, she looked at Serenity, who was receiving a soft kiss from Christian on her forehead. Her eyes moved to Ron, who seemed to have his face smooshed so much against Lavender’s that it was impossible to know if he was even able to comprehend the concept of time, let alone recognize the passage into a new year.

 

As her eyes moved across the crowd to come back to George, they caught another couple, kissing deeply. As others pulled away, they stayed lip locked. Tiny hands wandered through fitful, unruly hair. A long sheet of red hair hung almost to his hands, which were locked on the girl’s waist. There was an earnestness surrounding the couple like an aura, and they looked almost scenic together—as if the pairing was so perfectly balanced that it should have been expected. As her brain began to process the figures as recognizable and familiar, Evelyn’s heart stopped.  

 

It was Ginny that was kissing Harry—Harry kissing Ginny.  
 

 

 

 


 

Author's Note:  I've left a few Easter eggs here for the curious or for those familiar with new years traditions and myths. Looking forward to hearing what you all think! xx, Antigone

 

 



Chapter 29: A Million Pieces
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The wind blew in hard from the west the first morning of 1997. As the front door opened, Evelyn could hear the wind whistling down the hallway from her seat in the front room. She was trying to focus on the Transfiguration book in her lap, and had been relatively successful until she heard the approach of voices and quick feet. In the doorway appeared the two people she was least interested in seeing just then: Harry and Ginny. Ginny stepped into the room first, snow drifting off of her shoulders and melting on the crown of her head. She was flushed and smiling, almost glowing as she stood there, casting a look back at Harry.

 

Harry, however, was looking at Evelyn, who eyed them only for a moment before forcing herself to look back at her book. She didn’t greet them, and was happy to hear Ginny say softly, “I wonder where Hermione might be. Let’s find her, Harry. I want to hear about her trip.”

 

She kept her eyes focused on her book as she heard feet retreating. She didn’t feel compelled to call out to them to tell them that Hermione had left to spend a few days with her parents before term started.

 

When she heard a door snap shut upstairs and felt relatively certain that they wouldn’t be returning, she looked up from her book, which had been useless for distracting her. She couldn’t keep her mind on any of the sentences. She allowed her eyes to lock onto the flames dancing in the fireplace, letting her mind wander. She was tired, and felt somewhat hungover from the previous night.

 

As she let her mind go, the image of Ginny kissing Harry came back to her unsolicited. Evelyn didn’t know why she felt so upset about it. It wasn’t as if Harry had promised her anything. She felt mostly that she had been disappointed. She had spent more time than she was willing to admit imagining herself kissing Harry. He was one of the first people she had felt comfortable with after her memories had returned, and she had allowed those feelings to ease into friendship and then attraction. She had built up these ideas of them together: kissing at New Year’s when the opportunity finally presented itself and she couldn’t make any more excuses; spending the last few days of break escaping from Grimmauld Place to walk hand-in-hand in a city and country that was finally starting to feel like home to her; and going back to school, where they could sit in the common room with Hermione and Ron, practice dueling, and steal kisses between classes.

 

As all those daydreams moved across her mind, she realized how much she had actually invested in these feelings. She worried that she had allowed herself to be misled. She was forced to confront the possibility that he had never once considered kissing her, holding her hand, or any of those things. He had simply been nice to her. He was friendly.

 

The realization made her feel sad and her stomach sank, thinking that he was, in fact, interested in Ginny. A deep, envious feeling spread across her stomach, and she hated this new feeling immediately. Harry and Ginny were together now, she knew, and would return to school as a couple. She would be his priority. Worse, she would be around all the time. Evelyn knew she’d have to accept it as a fact; there was no way around it. She would have to push away these feelings—steel herself.

 

She sighed, staring deeper into the fire. She knew school would be distracting to her, and she longed for it. She could spend time with Serenity and Christian—as much time as possible—and go to the library with Hermione. She could play endless hours of wizarding chess with Ron. She would fill her time, distract herself with little projects, until she was simply desensitized to the fact of the couple. Until she could move on, and forget this disappointment.

 

She wondered briefly about Theo. Was he the great love of her life? Did she believe in soul mates? She had thought so only a year ago, and could remember that feeling vividly—although it felt a world away now. They’d had a great drama that had unfolded itself endlessly with variation and romance. He had been her first crush, her first hand to hold, her first boyfriend, her first kiss. There were still a few firsts she was looking to have, but would they come back to Theo?

 

She still felt strongly that she would never see him again, but she wondered if he would welcome a letter from her. After their kiss, there hadn’t been much time for conversation. There had only been goodbyes. The door felt firmly closed to her; he felt past tense, at least as a love interest. Writing could potentially open that door back up, over time, but that wasn’t why she wanted to write. She wanted to write to get his opinion, to know if it could be possible for her to have been so off base when it came to reading signals and feeling vibes. Perhaps she was. Perhaps she’d used up all her wiles and insights with Theo, and there was nothing left.

 

She leant down over the side of the chair, fishing two pieces of parchment from her bag. Instead of writing Theo, she wrote Lacey first and then Hermione. She didn’t want to give too much away by letter to Hermione; as Harry and Ginny’s mutual friend, it was unclear where Hermione would stand on a situation like this. She would need to feel her out in person first. So, rather than giving away her secrets and her frustrations, she found a casual way to share the news:

 

Dear Hermione,

 

I know it’s only been a few hours since you’ve left, but after spending nearly every second together this last week it’s felt like forever—so I hope you don’t mind the letter. Most of the Order has been away from the house for the day, and it’s been difficult to nurse my hangover without Mrs. Weasley here to help. (I already feel spoiled by that woman.)

 

At least I think it’s a hangover. It might be exhaustion honestly. How are you feeling? Exhausted, hungover, or both? If it’s just the former, perhaps that means you had less to drink than I did and you can tell me a bit about the evening. I haven’t heard too much from George, so I’m assuming I was unbearably drunk, but I do remember a few key moments. And, yes, that does include my Macarena. Unfortunately.

 

Perhaps this piece of paper should have been used to issue an apology to the Weasley twins, who I am sure are spending most of the day tidying their flat and resenting their guests.

 

By the way—did George call me a bird last night? Is that British slang for something I should be upset about? I have a memory of him calling me that, while we were dancing, and Fred was behind him flapping his arms like wings and eying me viciously while you laughed and I tried to keep up the conversation with George. I think this was later in the night—or early in the morning, I suppose… Though to be honest, I wouldn’t put this past myself as a dream. Before the memories, I use to have the strangest dreams, and this would fit right into that canon.

 

Did we spend the whole evening with those two? I mostly remember that we had fun. Or, I had fun. I hope it was both of us.

 

Come back soon, but write me sooner—

Evelyn

 

She read it through a couple times, and felt confident that it carried the casual tone she wanted it to. She folded it carefully, stamping it closed with a dab of wax and laying it by the way so that she could turn her attention to the second sheet of paper.

 

Dear Theo,

 

Is it odd for me to write, particularly so soon after departing and after so many months of silence? I’m sure you know I’ve directed most of my letters to Lacey, with only a few exceptions to May and Bobbie. (And don’t think this is my attempt to blame you for not writing—I’m sure neither of us wanted to write, and I wouldn’t have been a good correspondent anyway. You know the story now, and I’m sure you’d agree.)

 

Now, I’m going to cut to it. Even if it’s weird, I couldn’t think of anyone else I would rather bring this issue to. You know me so well… On occasion, you’ve demonstrated that you know me better than I know myself. I know you agree. Remember that Bronte quote I use to have hanging in my locker? “He’s more myself than I am. Whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same.” That’s what we felt like, right?

 

Maybe it’s just me, but I think you felt the same. Perhaps not this past week… Things are different now, but in some ways they are the same, and I wanted to bring this to you because you know me. In a way Lacey or May or Hermione doesn’t. In a way my aunts don’t. You know me from the inside. You were my best friend all those years we were together. That doesn’t just disappear, right?

 

I’m sorry to lose myself in a tangent like that. But, I felt like I had to remind us of all of that before I wrote the next part because I didn’t want it to feel like it was coming from nowhere. And I didn’t want to hurt you. I don’t think it will; I think you knew what I knew after that kiss—it was a goodbye kiss. It’s done now, don’t you think? All those other times, when we were at the Academy, none of the breakups or goodbye kisses felt like that. None of them felt as permanent. That one did, though, didn’t it? Like we might never see each other again? It’s weird to think about, and even weirder to write. (Please, tell me if you disagree! Tell me if you feel differently!)

 

So, with that goodbye kiss on our record and our friendship left, I think I can tell you about Harry. And how much I liked Harry—and how much I thought Harry liked me—and how much it hurt when I watched him kiss someone else on New Year’s.

 

I think I can tell you… But I feel like I should wait to hear confirmation. Write me, okay? You know I always have an ear for you.

 

Yours,

Evelyn

 

She read this one through as well, wishing that she hadn’t been so courteous and had just assumed she could dump her emotions into this letter without Theo’s consent. Though that had originally been her intention, she had changed her mind as she wrote—wanting instead to know that Theo was where she was with all of this. (Perhaps this too was apart of her misreading.) She felt uncertain of herself, but folded the letter just the same and sealed it.

 

They were off with an owl a few moments later, and a decision sprung to her mind as she watched the bird disappear over the row of houses across the street. As soon as her aunt returned, she would ask to leave. They could go to Demeter’s or they could back to school; she didn’t care. She only wanted to go, knowing that Hermione and Theo’s replies would find her no matter where she went.

 

With that decision made and her letters on the way to their recipients, she eased back into the chair with her book—the words less confusing and cluttered on the page as she began to read again.

 


 

Elizabeth was sitting alone in the library, a teacup hovering beside her while she ran her finger down a dusty page. For the past week or so, she had been refining her nonverbal spellwork. She had been able to cast nonverbally for a few years and, while it didn’t seem necessary to be able to levitate a teacup while she considered a list of tasteless and odorless poisons, she wanted to be able to perform spells while concentrating on other tasks—and this was a good place to start. She paused to read the ingredients of one particular poison, and the teacup remained, without so much as a teeter. She was pleased to note that she was getting relatively good at multitasking.  

 

The door to the library opened, and she allowed her eyes to leave the page. The teacup stayed where it was, and she thought briefly of plucking it from the air as Draco entered the library. She had tried to be mindful of his feelings since she had thrown him out of her bedroom on the night of the hunt. She had given him the space he seemed to require, had practiced her sensational magic in her room, and had taken a few meetings outside of the manor. She didn’t want to hurt him anymore than she already had—just the fact that she could levitate the cup while reading felt injurious to him, as if she was boasting her position, her mentors, or her power.

 

All of these worries seemed to dissolve though when he didn’t make eye contact or address her. He had gotten quite good at acting as if she didn’t exist, though she noticed that a sour expression always came to his face whenever they were in the same room alone together.

 

He had sported the same expression each time their paths crossed over the last week, which had only been a few times as he had generally avoided her as much as possible. On multiple occasions, he had taken his meals in his room, claiming he was in the middle of important work necessary to his task, and had gone out on errands alone. She wasn’t sure if he was going out to work on the vanishing cabinet or if he was just avoiding her. Both seemed likely, but she was hopeful it was the former. It was where his attention should be, she knew.

 

She watched him, keeping her face expressionless. She wished she could say something that would make him better understand the position she was in, and the decision she had made. It seemed so clear to her: though she might have been developing feelings for Draco, she could no longer indulge them. Her position had shifted. There were new expectations set for her, and she wouldn’t allow herself to disappoint Him. He was more important.

 

She had tried in the days following to smooth over the tension with Draco, but he had repeatedly dismissed her. She could empathize with his position, but she felt that he must know that her decision was the right one to make and that she made it with both of them in mind. In fact, she felt as though that must have been what angered him the most—knowing that she was right. He knew that she couldn’t promise him anything other than support in the task, and that he would be forced to accept her support.

 

She thought all of this while she watched him use his wand to remove a few books from the shelves, and direct them into the arms of a house elf that stood quietly by the door. He too used nonverbal spells, ensuring that the room was absolutely silent.

 

She wondered how much longer she would get this treatment from him, but knew it wasn’t sustainable. They would have to discuss the task soon. She had been focusing her attention on the back-up plans that they had discussed at the beginning of break, and she felt that she was close to deciding which poison to use to taint the mead that they planned to give to Madame Rosmerta. She didn’t feel as though she needed his approval to move forward with this small piece on her own, but she did want to tell him about.

 

In fact, there were many things she wanted to tell him about and she was eager to get back to school to assuage the tension that had erupted between the two of them. He was almost a friend—a good enough replacement for Hera when they were apart—and his icy treatment in the last week had been difficult to navigate, especially as she was staying at his family home.

 

She knew she had only to mention this behavior to Bella, and he would receive a scathing letter demanding he adjust his attitude and welcome Elizabeth back into his confidence. She hadn’t been moved to write yet, and had been hoping that it wouldn’t come to that. It would be easier if he got over himself and began to act more like an adult. But, with each passing moment in the library, her hope for that mature resolution flickered. Resentment was emanating from him.

 

His palpable bitterness was starting to chip away at her cool exterior, and she turned her attention to him fully, allowing herself to stare at him openly. She knew he could feel her eyes on him. She knew he was doing everything to ignore her. She could feel anger swelling in her as he continued to ignore her.

 

The tipping point came when, without word or ceremony, he left, gesturing wordlessly at the elf and clicking the door shut behind him—the way someone might exit an empty room.

 

The only noise that followed was the teacup, crashing against the door. She hadn’t realized she’d decided to throw it until it was in a million pieces.
 

 

 

 

 

Author’s Note: First, I should apologize for the delay—though I suppose I have good reason! I was finishing my LAST major project at work, because I’ll be starting a new job next week. (I'm really excited about it!) I have taken a few days off though, and wanted to dedicate some time to writing and posting. So perhaps we’ll see another chapter up soon…. This one and the next one are on the short side for me, so it only seems fair to get it posted for you guys, doesn’t it?

As always, let me know what you think. You know I love hearing from you, even when the chapters are a bit on the quieter side like this one. Though, I’d love to know what you think about the self-reflection and the emotion here. Does it come across well? Is it too descriptive? Should there be more action? All things I’m wondering lately…

Credits: The line quoted in Evelyn’s letter to Theo is from Emily Bronte’s classic novel, Wuthering Heights.

 

 



Chapter 30: A Wash
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Hermione looked out of the window of the train, longing—for the first time—for the familiar signs of Hogsmeade. Though she always enjoyed returning to school, she couldn’t remember a time when she hadn’t wanted to be on the train. The train was like the preface to a good book. It offered an important interlude as she transitioned from her Muggle home to school. It also offered an opportunity to discover what had happened in her absence. Often, the platform and the train were abuzz with news and gossip. Each trip came with it’s own set of fond memories.

 

This trip was different. Perhaps it was because for the first time since she boarded the train as a first year, she wasn’t sure where to sit. Ron had immediately been pulled away by Lavender, which she tried not to dwell on. Ginny had barely left Harry’s side since New Year’s Eve, and had pulled him away on the platform to greet Luna and Neville while Hermione was still saying her goodbyes to Mrs. Weasley.

 

Though she knew she was welcome with Ginny, Luna, and Neville, Hermione didn’t want to spend her time on the train with them. They weren’t her closest friends, and she didn’t necessarily feel as though she could speak plainly with them there. She most certainly couldn’t complain to Harry about Ron and Lavender in front of them. And, today, she felt too tired to keep up appearances.

 

Briefly, she allowed herself to feel as though Ginny had snatched Harry way from her.

 

She wrinkled her brow, not liking the way that feeling came up inside of her. It was a selfish feeling, and was unusual for Hermione—nearly foreign. She had known Ginny was after Harry since the younger girl had started her third year at Hogwarts. Her schoolgirl crush, which had blossomed after Harry had saved her life, had developed into a more mature attraction over the last year, and she had come to Hermione for advice on more than one occasion. Always, the older girl had returned with what she had thought was sage advice: back off, calm down, he has a lot on his mind, he’ll come around if he’s interested.

 

She had begun to believe he never would come around; she had never had the impression that Harry was interested in Ginny. In fact, she had thought, most recently, that he was interested in Evelyn. 

 

Hermione took pride in her astuteness. Though often driven by his emotions, Harry wasn’t the type of guy to openly confide his feelings to her. Instead, she observed, collected clues, and prepared for the time when he needed to talk. It came rarely, but it came, and she liked to be prepared—she always had. She had been filing away observations of Harry and Evelyn since November.  

 

She could still remember the moment her interest had been peaked. Harry had chased down Evelyn following the end of a Defense class, after he had seen her dueling with her sister. They were out of earshot, but Hermione could see the look on Harry’s face, turned towards Evelyn. He’d been awash with admiration and eagerness. He’d never looked at a girl like that—not Cho, and not Ginny. 

 

Hermione had noticed that same admiration come over Evelyn after her memories had returned. They would come back from the Room of Requirement, deeply engrossed in conversation and flushed with exercise. They seemed to have a deep respect for one another, and a confidence in one another that was unusual for Harry. He didn’t trust easily, and she thought the same might be true for Evie. And, there was obvious physical chemistry—they even looked good together. She had thought so, at least. 

 

She thought back to the letter Evelyn had sent her, which she had read several times before replying. There was something hidden between the lines, but she didn’t want to assume or address it in her response. She preferred to have that conversation in their dorm room, when they could have a moment alone. A sliver of Hermione was happy to finally have someone who could truly empathize with her predicament. This sliver immediately reinforced that selfish feeling, but she couldn’t help herself—for so long Harry had tried to listen to her and Evelyn had offered patience and kindness, but neither of them had truly understood what it was like to watch the person you wanted to be with waste their time with someone else. If her intuition was right about Evelyn’s feelings, Evelyn could truly emphasize with her now.

 

 

The door to the compartment slid open, jarring Hermione from her thoughts. 

 

“There you are,” Harry said, running a hand through his hair, “I’ve been looking for you.” He stepped inside the compartment and slid the door shut behind him.

 

“I was able to keep a compartment to myself,” she said softly, adding a quick lie, “I’d wanted to get some reading done before we got back to school.”

 

“Don’t tell me I’ve forgotten an assignment.”

 

“Probably,” she smiled, letting an airy laugh slip, “But that’s not what I had planned to read. I’d planned to read for pleasure.” 

 

“Anything good?” He asked, trying to look interested.

 

“No,” she conceded, allowing the lie to lay flat. She felt tired, and knew it would probably be wise to head to the prefect compartment soon. She felt heavy with the thought of seeing Ron there. She had too often had to bear a conversation with him while watching a red, welting hickey rise on his throat. Just the memory made her feel grim. 

 

“Did you want to come sit with us? We’re only a few doors down.”

 

She stood, shaking her head. “I should go join the other prefects. We’ll be there soon.” 

 

Harry nodded, his mouth set in an observant line. She could see his brain spinning behind his round glasses, and she turned her eyes away from him as she stood and gathered her things. He was still standing in the doorway with the same expression when she turned back to him.

 

“Is something wrong, Hermione?”

 

She said, “Don’t be daft,” and gave him a smile that she felt was trying too hard to be cheery.

 


 

Evelyn fiddled with the hem of her school robes, eying her own hands in the mirror as they moved around idly. She knew she would have to leave her room in her aunt’s quarters soon, but she didn’t particularly want to. She had been avoiding the one thing she knew she had to do before break ended, and she knew that when she exited her room, it would have to happen.

 

After leaving Grimmauld Place, she had focused on building up a wall between herself and her feelings. She had spent time with her aunts, had caught up on all of her homework, and had diligently reconciled all of the new memories she’d acquired over break in her mind. These all felt like more important pursuits than worrying over Harry’s new relationship. She felt relatively confident that she could carry over these habits into the new semester, especially with Hermione and Serenity as added distraction. 

 

However, she had avoided telling her aunts’ about the memory that had returned to her while she was in America. She couldn’t say for certain that she had done this consciously or unconsciously. Rather, as each day slipped by, it had been easier to not tell than to tell. She could feel in her gut that as soon as they knew, something would change. 

 

“Evie? Are you ready?” Her aunt’s voice came through the door, and she knew it was time. Her things had all been returned to the dorm. Her friends were probably, at that moment, arriving in Hogsmeade. Somewhere in the castle, house elves were preparing platters for dinner. It was time.

 

She opened the door, and walked into the living room. Demeter was already wearing her traveling cloak. She had come early in the day, and was leaving for Wales as soon as Minnie and Evelyn left for the feast. Minnie was tying her professorial cloak on, and her hat was sitting next to the door waiting to be worn. They were chatting absentmindedly.

 

“There you are,” Demeter said, smiling as Evelyn entered the room, “You look wonderful. It’s so nice to see you representing the family house!”

 

Even this faint allusion to bravery made Evelyn feel uncomfortable. Her neck felt hot under the collar of her robes, and she forced herself to look up from the hem she was still holding to her aunt. Minnie was looking at her thoughtfully now, “What’s wrong, dear?”

 

“There’s something I need to tell you before we go,” she said, forcing herself to drop the hem and roll her shoulders down so that she was standing tall. “I think—I think the memory came back.”

 


 

“Hey, have you seen Evelyn?” 

 

Dinner was almost over, and the scratching of cutlery across plates and the general din of the meal had begun to soften. Hermione had been spending the last few minutes pushing three potato halves across her plate while Ginny prattled on about Quidditch and Harry and Neville listened attentively. Ron was seated a few spaces away with Lavender, looking even less enthralled in his own conversation than Hermione was in hers.

 

She looked up at the familiar voice, meeting the dark eyes of Serenity Savior. She felt immediately grateful for the inquiry. She shook her head slowly, and looked at Neville, who immediately made room for Serenity to take a seat next to Hermione. The other girl sat, looking slightly concerned. Hermione replied, “I believe she’s back in the castle—she left Grimmauld Place after the New Year with her aunts, and they were planning on arriving back here a few days early. I wrote her a couple of days ago, but hadn’t heard back.” 

 

“Yeah, I thought that was her plan. She wrote me while she was at her Aunt Demeter’s, and told me that if I didn’t have a chance to write before the end of break, to come find her at dinner. She has something for me.”

Hermione nodded, “She picked something out for you while we were abroad.”

 

“But you haven’t seen her?”

 

“No, I haven’t.” Hermione could feel her stomach tightening a bit, a feeling she had been trying to ignore throughout dinner as each moment had passed and Evelyn hadn’t arrived. She had fought the feeling primarily by reasoning that, based on her suspicions regarding her friend’s feelings for Harry, Evelyn had most likely skipped dinner in an effort to give herself one more night of reprieve from the new couple. Unfortunately, the look of concern on Serenity’s face was undermining that logic. Now, confronted with the fact that Evelyn had asked Serenity to find her at dinner, Hermione was forced to accept the fact that it was unlike Evelyn to be unreliable. Even more, since her memories had returned, she had spoken of confronting her issues head-on. These facts were the ones that Hermione had been attempting to ignore throughout dinner, as she ate idly and participated in the conversation only when directly prompted. These facts were the ones balled up in her stomach, making her wary.

 

As if reading her mind, Serenity said, “I’m a little worried, you know? It’s odd of her to not follow through. Plus, did you notice? McGonagall hasn’t been at the meal either, and the headmaster left after he welcomed us back.”

 

Hermione had noticed the headmaster leave after Professor Snape whispered something in his ear, but she hadn’t noticed McGonagall’s absence. She raised an eyebrow, and voiced these thoughts in a slightly lower tone than she’d taken up before.

 

Serenity turned her eyes to Harry, and interrupted Ginny mid-sentence, who was still chattering on though Harry’s eyes had turned towards the Ravenclaw at their table. “Have you seen her, Harry?”

 

He looked grim as he shook his head. As Hermione and Serenity began to speculate on Evelyn’s whereabouts, Harry watched them intently, picking their words out over the sound of Ginny and Neville’s continued conversation. He, himself, was surprised to realize that he hadn’t noticed the absence of Evelyn, Professor McGonagall, or Professor Dumbledore. He was typically overly aware of Dumbledore’s movements in particular, and the fact that these details had slipped past him was somewhat unnerving. He scolded himself briefly, knowing he needed to be more attentive. He felt a little frustrated. Evelyn, he was sure, would expect more from him the next time they dueled together.

 

As long as she was okay, he thought briefly. He allowed his eyes to wander across the hall to the Slytherian table, where Draco Malfoy was sitting next to Blaise Zabini. Malfoy looked disinterested in whatever was happening around him. His eyes moved down the table to Elizabeth Castell, who was talking animatedly with Hera Manos and Rhett Addington. She was deeply engrossed in her conversation, and Harry stared at her openly for a few minutes—searching her face for some hint of her sister. They had the same eyes, similar cheekbones, but everything else was foreign on Elizabeth’s face. Evelyn was nowhere to be seen.

 

He could feel Ginny’s hand move onto his leg under the table, squeezing slightly without verbally calling attention to herself or breaking from her conversation with Neville. His mind briefly flickered to her, and what she was saying, but he couldn’t maintain his focus. He felt suddenly that he needed to talk to the headmaster. His brain was moving quickly, and an unfinished idea was lying at the back of his mind trying to manifest itself. He had assumed the headmaster would summon him that evening or early that week to continue their meetings, and perhaps to shed light on the dream Harry had had during break. But, he wondered instead, if the headmaster had summoned Evelyn. 

 

The thought made him feel uneasy and anxious. 

 

He realized suddenly that his hand had moved over Ginny’s and was holding it tightly, as if she was the one he was worried about. She cast him a bashful look, smiling at the affection, before continuing on in her conversation. Harry tried to smile back, but fortunately she looked away without realizing that his smile was forced. 

 

His thoughts were somewhere else. 

 


 

Evelyn wasn’t sure how she should feel, knowing that the Dark Lord had felt delighted to know the prophecy and knowing that it must have been Elizabeth who had shared it with him. 

 

Briefly, she considered feeling guilt. Perhaps it had been Theo’s words in her ear that had caused the remembering. If that was the case, then Voldemort’s access to this information was her fault. She had chosen to put herself in that situation; she had known the risks, and had gone to Maryland anyway. Even worse, she had waited so long to confide in her aunts that she couldn’t be certain that the Dark Lord hadn’t acted on this information. She couldn’t be certain that she hadn’t compromised or endangered herself more.

 

Another part of her flared up, however, and rejected the guilt. Elizabeth’s choices weren’t her fault, no matter how many warped memories from their childhood she was forced to carry with her now. It was just as likely that Elizabeth had been inducing memories to get to this one, as Dumbledore had suggested, knowing that it would please her master to report this information—knowing that he had been after it all along. 

 

She felt raw as the two feelings warred inside of her. It didn’t feel like she was on equal footing with her sister anymore. Growing up, Elizabeth had been a masterful witch. She could duel as well as Evelyn, and could keep pace in any of their other subjects. Often, their mother had attempted to explain away Elizabeth’s bad behavior by insisting she was bored at school. The subjects weren’t challenging enough. With the dark arts open to her now, Elizabeth would have all the challenge she’d ever wanted. And, soon, Evelyn knew, her sister would be using that dark magic against her. Only one of them could live through the war, she knew. That much was clear.

 

“Headmaster,” she said, drawing the three sets of adult eyes towards her, “The Order has known about this prophecy for a few months now. Has anyone… could anyone… decipher it?”

 

“The allusions Professor Trelawney made in the prophecy are all from Greek and Roman mythology, some of which is of course rooted in magical history. I myself have read into the specific allusions and I believe I have a sense of what the prophecy may be referring to, but it may be good for you to interpret the prophecy yourself.”

 

“Albus, I don’t know if this is necessarily a teaching moment,” Minerva started, looking wide-eyed at the headmaster.

 

“I’m not suggesting it is, Minerva. I’m only suggesting that it will be good for Evelyn to interpret it independently—the meaning could open itself up differently to her. There is no right interpretation. We can’t be certain of the meaning.” After a moment, he added, “The only thing we can be certain of is that Voldemort will act on the prophecy, as he did before.”

 

“Is there anything we can do?” Demeter said softly. She was still wearing her traveling cloak, and was hugging it tightly to her body.

 

“We have informants that we can rely on to know whether or not Voldemort moves forward with this information. We can watch Elizabeth while we are here at school. We can continue to prepare for and fight this war.”

 

“No then,” Demeter sighed, pulling her cloak even tighter and huffing a little. She was frustrated. 

 

“Demeter,” Minnie chided, trying a smile that was so tight across her lips that it was essentially a grimace. “Evelyn is training every day—she takes seriously her classes, she has found friends who understand the weight of the war, and she’s informed now. All we can do is continue to collect information, and protect her.”

 

“I don’t need protected,” Evelyn interrupted, and the thought seemed to crystalize her feelings. She didn’t feel guilty or sad. She didn’t feel angry or bitter anymore. No, now, she felt determined. Determined to bring back all of her memories, determined to overcome this prophecy—determined to fight. She wasn’t afraid of Elizabeth; she was afraid of not being prepared to fight when the time came. She repeated, “You don’t have to protect me. I can be the one that survives, I can help fight. I want to fight.”

 

Her aunts looked gobsmacked, but Dumbledore smiled in his aloof way. “You sound like your friends—Mr. Potter, Miss Granger, Mr. Weasley. They want to fight; they want to support the Order. I believe that you do, Miss Castell, but I caution you to study the prophecy first, before you run into battle.”

 

 

 

 

Author's Note: It's amazing to finally get back into HPFF, and get a new chapter up! I'm honestly so thrilled to be back here, and to have this opportunity to complete Tempting Fate where it began. Thank you to all who have made this possible—and to all of the amazing readers who have come here, and are continuously engaging and supporting this story and this platform. 

 

A few story-related updated—I have the entire series mapped out (!!!), and am currently working on chapter forty-four. There will be seventy-five chapters total, and in addition to posting I will be going back through the previous chapters here to ensure that they align with small edits that were made when I was transferring the story to the HPFT Archive. That version is much further behind, but I'm hoping to get both aligned and to update both. I don't want to give too much away, but for those of you who are fans of This Winter, you can expect to see Marie Noelle cross Evelyn's path. (Won't that be fun?) Depending on how this goes, I may consider expanding on Cassandra Savior's story—which would be a Marauders Era story. If you've got thoughts on this now or in the future, please let me know. This wouldn't be started until this story reaches its conclusion.

 

As always, reviews are greatly appreciated! 

 

And, if you haven't heard, the amazing firefawn is back in the world with regular updates of her fabulous Eclipse of the Sky. She's currently updating on fanfiction.net, and this lovely lady is seriously blowing it up. I'm obsessed. Head her way, and leave her some love.



Chapter 31: Failure Means a Drowning Death
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Her feet made the only noises she could hear in the corridor as she left the library. She wasn’t surprised the halls were empty, as the library had been too. Though the homework had been rather heavily assigned for the first week of the new semester, she was sure her fellow sixth years weren’t ready to sequester themselves in the library just yet. Most evenings, the common room was humming with students late into the night, catching up with one another after the holiday and sharing bits of gossip that had circled through the halls that first week. She was sure it would be a week or so still before they turned to the library for the quiet focus they needed for their upcoming final exams.

 

Elizabeth had sought out the library for reasons other than homework. She had successfully transferred the poisoned mead to Rosmerta and given her instructions for the next phase of their plans earlier that week, and she was thinking already of other contingency plans that they could orchestrate. She carried a few texts, which she had taken from the restricted section after casting the Confundus Charm on Madame Pince, and was debating whether or not to show them to Draco. He had yet to talk to her outright, though he had started acknowledging her again—typically at meals, while waiting for a class to begin, or when Hera provoked him into conversation. In other words, he was speaking to her whenever it was too difficult for him to ignore her.

 

As she drew closer to the first floor bathroom, the sound of voices rose to meet her. Ellie immediately began to tread lighter in the hopes of avoiding a professor who might recognize the texts she carried and question how she had gotten them from the library. She realized the voices were coming from the bathroom as she neared the door, and relaxed slightly—until she noticed that one of the voices was familiar to her. One of the voices on the other side was distinctly Draco’s voice. Surprised, she lingered near the door.

 

“I don’t understand why it hasn’t worked. It should be fixed by now, I should have been successful by now.” His voice was strained and whiny, and Elizabeth leaned closer to the door to hear more clearly. “I feel overwhelmed.”

 

“Tell me what it is you’re trying to fix, Draco. I can be helpful!” The voice was high and girlish, and Elizabeth didn’t recognize it.

 

“I can’t tell you. You can’t help,” He sighed, and she could imagine him racking his hand through his hair the way he always did when he was frustrated. “I’ve told you before—no one can help me.”

 

“What about that other girl?” The voice turned bitter.

 

He scoffed loud enough to be heard through the door. “I can’t go to her, not now. Not yet.”

 

“But, you were so hopeful before the holiday—remember, before the holiday?”

 

“That feels like years ago, Myrtle.”

 

“What happened?”

 

“I can’t tell you—“

 

“Yes you can,” The voice softened, “You can tell me.”

 

“She rejected me. I told her how I felt, and she refused me. She was callus, horrible—she—”

 

Elizabeth couldn’t help herself. She threw open the door, and her eyes were immediately met by Draco’s, who blanched under her glare.

 

She started, but regained her composure quickly and let out a chuckle as she dropped a hand to her hip. “You’ve got to be kidding me, Malfoy.” He was not confiding in a fellow student, as she had assumed, but a ghost, who glared moodily at her from behind a pair of thick black glasses. He stared at her in speechless disbelief, his pale skin flaming red at his cheekbones.

 

“Who are you?” The ghost shrieked, growing angry and sliding between Elizabeth and Draco.

 

“Elizabeth—the horrible girl who rejected the great Draco Malfoy. If you believed that bit.” She shifted the books she was carrying to her hip, and moved her hand to her side in case she needed to draw her wand. She hadn’t much experience dealing with ghosts, and felt that this one seemed particularly petulant.

 

The ghost’s eyes were drawn into large circles behind her frames, and her mouth puckered in a sour way. Her arms crossed and she sunk down to Draco’s side. “Of course I would believe Draco. He always tells me how he feels.”

 

“Oh does he?” Elizabeth’s eyes shifted to Draco, who had moved his eyes to the floor while Elizabeth had been talking with the ghost. To his credit, he seemed somewhat embarrassed and she felt certain that he actually was. Outside of these walls, he was a cocky and flippant stud that girls eyed wildly between classes. Inside, he was a wilting flower. Standing there, avoiding her gaze, he looked fragile—and she wondered what would happen if anyone knew, if Bella knew, if He knew.

 

“Yes,” the ghost huffed, allowing her voice to soften as she cast an affectionate look at Draco. “He is very sensitive.”

 

“That I know well.” Elizabeth muttered, briefly noting the blasé expression on her own face in the mirrors that surrounded her.

 

The ghost did not take this reaction well, as she must have expected some sympathy from Elizabeth. She moved upward again, and Elizabeth realized that this movement was the ghost’s attempt to be intimidating. (If she hadn’t looked so utterly pubescent, perhaps she would have been successful.) Instead, she seemed more like an angst-filled teenager as she shouted, “You don’t know anything! GET OUT! Get out of my bathroom, and leave us be. You don’t belong here!”

 

Elizabeth rolled her eyes, and the half dozen reflections of her rolled theirs too. “You’ve got it all wrong, sweetie. It’s Draco that doesn’t belong here. He needs to be working, planning—he needs to be getting over himself. This behavior is absurd. And, frankly, it’s unacceptable” She growled out the last three sentence, turning her eyes again to Draco. He was still looking at the floor, but she could see the red blush creeping down from his cheeks and across the back of his neck.  

 

“He does enough!” The ghost sputtered.

 

“Let’s go, Draco.” Elizabeth said simply, ignoring the ghost’s growing rage.

 

Draco lifted his eyes from the tiles for the first time, and looked briefly as if he might object to her command. But, when his eyes met hers, a downcast look came over him and the blush on his neck and cheeks deepened. He looked defeated then, standing in the girls’ bathroom with a ghost huffing over him, deranged and hostile. She could barely stand the sight, and felt anger and disgust wrestling in the pit of her stomach. She forced herself to look away, unable to stand it any longer, and made to leave, empowered by the sound of Draco’s footsteps after her own.

 

She didn’t look behind her at all as she walked, feeling stronger than Orpheusas she moved past the Entrance Hall and towards the dungeons. She could hear Draco trailing her, and with every step she grew angrier. Instead of turning towards the common room, she turned down a side hall in the dungeons that looked forgotten. There was only one door off of the hall, and the room was dark. She muttered, “Homenum Revelio,” then turned on Draco, who had followed her like a shadow.

 

“What were you thinking?” She tried to keep her tone even, but her voice flared up a little as her eyes met his. His gaze was sheltered and cool, and his whole posture was pathetic. “Anyone could have overheard you. Anyone. Do you understand—”

 

“Stop,” he whispered, but she barely heard him over her own tangent.

 

“—That you not only endangered yourself, but me. You endangered me.”

 

“Stop,” he said it a little louder then, but she ignored him and allowed her voice to rise over his.

 

“I won’t have it, Draco. You ignore me, belittle me, dismiss me—and now you risk everything we’ve been working to build for what?”

 

His eyes were flashing, and he grew a few inches as he tried to shed some of his sadness. Since her rejection of him, he had seemed pitiable. In the beginning, she had wanted to comfort him, but his treatment of her over the last weeks of break had worn away her patience and by the time they had returned to Hogwarts, she was disgusted with him. He was a sore loser, incapable of seeing the big picture. Worse still, she could see through his playboy reputation and his pride now. The task was unhinging him, and his confessions to a ghost seemed only to affirm it. She had idly wondered what a task like his would do to a human’s psyche, especially when everything that had transpired since it had been assigned had seemed to only work against him—and now she knew. Each failure had only further unmoored him. He was depressed, frustrated, and shaken, and all of those emotions flashed in his eyes behind something else. Something bigger.

 

“To vent some of your spleen? To allow a ghost to tell you that you’re big and strong? Is that how I’ve disappointed you, Draco—haven’t stroked your ego enough, haven’t stroked you enough. That’s such bull—”

 

“I said stop.” His voice was louder, and he had risen to his full height though his posture was still quiet. He took a step closer, looking wild as he leaned into her and placed his hands on her shoulders. It was the first time he had touched her since their meeting in her bedroom after the hunt at Malfoy Manor. He continued, “I know exactly what I’m doing. Every move. I have thought through every step: the plans, the parts, the people. Don’t stand there and lecture me. You weren’t here when this began. You don’t know. You don’t know anything, Elizabeth.”

 

She placed her own hands on his hands, and yanked them from her shoulders. Something seemed to have snapped in place as she scolded him. His tone had been measured, and as he spoke the sadness seemed to lift away. She decided to push him a bit.

 

“I don’t know? I don’t know! That’s a lie, Draco, and you know better than to lie to me. I’ve been here, beside you, listening and working and offering all that I can. You take advantage of nothing. You leave me in the dark. You force my hand.”

 

“Your hand! Forced!” He allowed a chuckle to escape his lips, his confidence returning. “Now who’s daring, Ellie? Now who’s absurd? That’s a lie, and we both know it—and I’m done with the lies.”

 

“You’re a fool to act like you’re alone in this.” She hissed, her tone steady and cold. He was so close to her that she could feel his cloak rustle against her own as he shook with anger.

 

Don’t call me a fool.”

 

“You know that I have pull, you know that I’m resourceful. And you’ve spent a full month pretending I don’t exist because I won’t get on my knees for you.”

 

Draco looked gobsmacked, his mouth falling open a bit. “That is—that’s—”

 

“That is exactly right. We’re done lying, aren’t we?” Her tone was arch, and she crossed her arms over her chest. They were almost nose-to-nose, and her arms brushed against his chest, a spark of static electricity prickling her skin. “It’ll make this easier.”

 

He scoffed, trying to pull himself back into composure. When he spoke, his voice was low and gritting. “Enough, Elizabeth. I’m beyond it. I only care about the work we have to do.”

 

“Right,” she said, eying him skeptically. She could feel his breath on her face, “We. We have work to do. You and me. Leave the ghost out of it.”

 

She didn’t wait for his reply, choosing instead to step to the side and move past him towards the common room. She liked having the last word.

 

 

 

 

Author's Note: A short one, but one of my favorites. Writing Elizabeth and Draco might be one of my guilty pleasures...! I hope you've enjoyed reading it as much as I did writing it, and I encourage you to drop a review if you did (or didn't—I like constructive criticism, too). I also want to again thank my lovely reviewers: LiLuLo12, EmmyBacon, pink bunny, and Sarah_Bee. I recently had cause to reread some of my chapters to ensure I was crafting some future scenes correctly, and this brought me back to your kind words. If you're still out there, I hope you know how much I appreciate you! 

 

Credits: The myth of Orpheusas has many Ancient Greek authors, all of whom deserve credit. The title is an allusion to a famous magic trick planned and performed by Harry Houdini. The trick is known as the "milk can escape." 



Chapter 32: Helen and Clytemnestra
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Before the end of January, Evelyn and Hermione had established a routine of retreating into the library during their free periods. Some days, they were joined by Serenity. They settled into a favored table, near the windows between the Transfiguration and Charms section, which offered a good amount of natural light when they were there during the day, and several nearby lamps during the evening hours.

 

The library felt like a sanctuary, and often the girls moved easily between discussions of their assignments, tangents on their social lives, and comfortable (and productive) silence. Evelyn was happy to find that Hermione and Serenity seemed to genuinely enjoy one another, and the three girls were happily together more often than not. Some days, Christian joined them—though he admittedly made them less productive than they were on their own.

 

Harry and Ron never came along, which also made Evelyn happy. She knew that Lavender wouldn’t allow Ron to come with three girls alone to the library, and knew too that Hermione wouldn’t have been pleased to sit with Ron and Lavender (particularly as they never seemed to be able to sit in separate chairs).

 

Harry and Ginny were at times just as bad, though their affection for one another seemed much more mutual. Evelyn had kept a closed lip on the topic of the newest Gryffindor couple, which had been a struggle at the start of term when the school seemed to be gossiping about the pair endlessly. She had swallowed her disappointment, and stuffed down her feelings as best she could. Any time a feeling popped up—when she caught Harry’s eye across the Charms classroom or he shot her a smile while they waited for Slughorn to open the door to Potions—she reminded herself that Harry was simply a nice person, a friend. Nevertheless, she preferred not to be around him or the couple if she could help it. Avoiding Harry was easier than it might have been last semester now that Ginny snapped up much of his attention. He had only asked a couple of times if she was able to practice dueling with him, and she was happy to have the homework load as an excuse. He couldn’t have guessed that she was avoiding him, as he too was often suffering under the weight of their course load and she had seen him on many evenings sitting up well past others at a table in the common room where he worked with Ron, Ginny, and Neville.

 

Perhaps, if they had still been dueling together regularly, Evelyn might have told Harry about the prophecy, which was another secret she was keeping. Though she assumed Hermione would have been a great asset to her in analyzing its contents, she wasn’t ready to share it with her. Hermione wouldn’t have rested until she solved it. Harry, on the other hand, would have just listened. Without him, Evelyn kept it to herself, turning it over in her head and looking at it from every angle.

 

She had opted to do some research on the allusions Trelawney had made. The hours she could spare between coursework were few, and often she gave over a few hours of sleep to read by wand light behind the curtains of her bed. She had started with historical texts, trying to draw a line between Greek mythology and the reality of Wizarding history in Greece in the hopes that this might contextualize some of the references in the prophecy. A selection of texts in the library focused on the origins of various magical creatures, including the basilisk, griffin, and manticore, and these were quickly discarded. There were a few texts about the seers Calchas and Mopsus and a few more about Herpo the Foul, but these were unhelpful as well. There were several texts about Transfiguration and Greece, which were familiar to her from her combat studies and which focused on the history of Animagi, Falco Aesalon, and even one hilarious text that discussed in great detail the sorceress Circe, who lived on an island and took pleasure in transforming sailors into pigs. Circe had been great inspiration for her when she first started considering the Ancient Greeks as a model for dueling, and she allowed herself to get distracted with the text for a day or two before she forced herself back into the stacks.

 

Though interesting enough, none of these texts offered Evelyn helpful information or contextualization. There didn’t seem to be a historical connection. She moved to the mythology section, hoping for more luck. She started with Helen of Troy. Helen was a familiar figure to her, as her father had read Homer’s Odyssey to her and Elizabeth one summer when they were children. At the time, the epic hadn’t made much sense to her, but she had carried pieces of it with her—one being the woman so beautiful a war was fought over her. While the texts she perused now offered contradictory accounts of Helen’s person, her beauty was the one point each critic seemed to agree on.  

 

The fact of Helen’s beauty didn’t seem necessary to Evelyn’s understanding of the prophecy, but it did seem to shade in Helen’s characterization in different ways in different texts. One critic painted a picture of a treacherous but beautiful woman, cunning and harsh who manipulated and tortured the men around her. Another used the soft feminine construct of Helen’s beauty to amplify the image of her as a sorrowful prisoner, lamenting her abduction by Paris and estrangement from all that she truly loved.

 

As she read, she began to wonder—and worry over—whether she might be the prophecy’s Helen or the prophecy’s Clytemnestra. Though cunning and harsh were standard traits associated with the Slytherians, she wasn’t a stranger to estrangement from her loved ones.

 

She turned to the story of Clytemnestra, with the hopes that it would clarify this issue for her, but it only seemed to muddy the waters. Clytemnestra was Helen’s twin sister. (Of course, she had thought as she read over that detail.) They had been born from eggs alongside their brothers, Castor and Pollux, the twins represented by the Gemini constellation and the astrological sign. Helen was a demigod, and Clytemnestra was mortal. This fact struck Evelyn as she read, and she tore a piece of parchment and stuck it into the binding so that she could return to it in her meeting with the Headmaster. On the parchment, she wrote, “Can a witch achieve immortality, like a demigod? Would I want that?

 

After she wrote the second question, she knew the answer was no. No matter what such a life might offer her, she had no desire to live forever. She felt that so strongly that she nearly write it down, too, but she stopped herself. She needed to separate her feelings from her questions—if she made assumptions now, it could change the way she read the prophecy and that was a risk she wasn’t willing to take.

 

She continued reading about Clytemnestra, discovering contradictory stories of her just as there had been of Helen. Authors seemed to agree that the main thrust of her story was the moment in which her husband tricked her into sending their daughter to him to be sacrificed. After Helen’s infamous abduction, her husband and Clytemnestra’s husband rallied troops to rescue her. However, they were unable to go to sea because the winds were unfavorable. To please the gods, Clytemnestra’s husband sacrificed their daughter—and the winds were changed.

 

He had promised his wife that he would take their daughter to be married, and instead he had murdered her for Helen’s sake.

 

When Evelyn first read the summary of this tragedy, her stomach turned over. A heat crept into her sweater, making her feel uncomfortable. Her eyes darted around the library, fearful suddenly that she was being watched. It felt as if someone had placed this in her path, purposefully and with the intention of mocking her. Though Evelyn recognized the key differences in the story of Clytemnestra and her own story, she knew that when reduced to their finest points they were the same. Each story hinged on a betrayal, a sacrifice, and a loss, which to one was victory and the other devastation. Her hand shook as she turned the page of the book, her eyes moving over a set of quotes in the text from an Ancient Greek play, Iphigenia in Aulis:

 

“If anyone asks you your reason for slaying her, tell me, what will you say? Or must I say it for you? ‘It is that Menelaus must recover Helen.’ An honorable exchange, indeed, to pay a wicked woman’s price in children’s lives! It is buying what we most detest with what we hold most dear.”

 

Her mother’s face came unbidden into her mind, and Evelyn felt hot tears sweep down her face. She hastily ran the sleeve of her robes over her cheeks. She happened to be alone in the library just then, but she knew that at any moment Hermione or Serenity might join her at the table and she refused to allow either of them to catch her crying. She took a deep breath, steadied herself, and read on:

 

“Again, if you go forth with the army, leaving me in your halls and are long absent at Troy, what will my feelings be at home, do you think? When I behold each vacant chair and her chamber now deserted.”

 

She bit her lip a bit, leaning back into the chair to think. Clytemnestra’s loss and subsequent grief were poignant. She despised and blamed Helen, and, for better or worse, this was a feeling Evelyn understood.  

 

 

After weeks of research, Evelyn found herself burning with a single question: Who is who?

 

With Elizabeth’s memories fresh in her mind, Evelyn knew that her sister felt that she too had experienced loss and grief at the hands of her sister, whom she hated, like Clytemnestra. She too had been wronged, and left to grieve alone as she constructed her vengeance. Alternatively, she could just as easily make an argument that either of them could be Helen. Though she didn’t necessarily consider herself treacherous, she wondered if her “weight in the war” would lead her down such a path. She hoped not—but she knew that she couldn’t know. Not for sure.

 

She ached with uncertainty at times. Her biggest fear, she realized, was that she might be Helen. Not the treacherous Helen of some tales, but the pathetic Helen—the bystander, the victim. Each time this fear came up inside of her, she remembered the way it felt to watch Katie Bell float above her. Helpless, she thought, am I doomed to be helpless?

 

The thought alone made her feel sick.  

 

 

One afternoon in early February, while Hermione and Serenity were in Ancient Runes, Evelyn went to the library to return the mythology books she’d finished reading and to search the stacks for something on the Goddess of Discord, which she felt was the last piece she needed to consider before she returned to the Headmaster. She dropped her bag at their favorite table, and began to wander towards the mythology section, passing through the Astronomy section on her way. As she walked, she looked over the spines—stopping abruptly as her eyes landed on one in particular. The title was set in swirling gold leaf script on the spine, reading, Cosmic Duality: Understanding the Astrological and Astronomical Gemini. She pulled the book from the shelf, and opened it to the table of contents. The book was divided into two sections, “Astrology: Gemini, the Divided Sign” and “Astronomy: The Stars Above.” Based on the chapter titles, the text purported to provide insight on the Gemini person, and to examine the constellation itself, with a reading that leant itself to Astrology and Divination.

 

Curious, she snapped the book shut and hurried back to her table with it.

 

When she had begun examining the prophecy, she had pursued what she considered were the “key components:” Helen, Clytemnestra, and the Goddess of Discord. Certain phrases, such as the “two with a weight in the war” and “neither can live while the other survives,” seemed incredibly straightforward to her and didn’t seem to need to be examined further. She hadn’t once taken into consideration the opening reference to Gemini, as she had simply assumed that was a straightforward clause. It referred to her and her sister, twins born in June under Gemini. Evelyn had never been the kind of person to put any weight into either her astrological sign or the movements of the constellations and planets. Astrology and Divination, which were taught jointly at the Academy, had been dismissed as fluff by her and her friends, in their preference for more concrete topics like Defense and Transfiguration. She could briefly remember a phase in May’s life during their middle school years when she had spent hours analyzing the astrological signs of the students in their class in an attempt to predict who would make the best couples. It was that investigation only that had been the reason why she knew she was a Gemini to begin with.

 

As she began to page through the introduction of the text and delve into the Astrological discussion, she started to wonder if her bias had prevented her from seeing the influence of astrology on the prophecy. She read quickly, trying to find herself or Elizabeth in the traits of the Gemini.

 

Before she knew what she was doing, she had picked up her quill and underlined the word “duality” and then the phrase “the other signs should be wary, as they can never be sure of the personality they will face.” Her hand shook slightly. Inconsistency—whether was with regards to Helen, Clytemnestra, or Geminis everywhere—seemed to be the theme, and it made her nervous. She forced herself to read on, feeling as though she was on the verge of understanding something.

 

Unfortunately, it was then that the text turned to a discussion of the Gemini in love, and Evelyn found herself back in Mays realm of matchmaking. Despite knowing this had nothing to do with the prophecy, she found herself unable to keep from reading on:

 

“The Gemini feels love first in communication, then in physical contact. All obstacles fade when these two components come together successfully. They seek their match in intellect and energy, variety and passion. In their search, the Gemini could try many different lovers.”

 

Evelyn smiled to herself, allowing her mind to wander briefly to her past relationships. The chapter went into further analysis of the opportunities for love and alliance among the other zodiac signs as well as the life cycle of the Gemini, and Evelyn laughed lightly as she read the section that detailed the kind of relationship a Gemini and Scorpio, which was Theo’s sign, might have. It felt a little too close to home.

 

She was beginning to wonder if Astrology wasn’t as fluffy as she had assumed.

 

After a few minutes, she forced herself out of the tangent, however, and moved out of the Astrology section, and into the Astronomy section to see if there was anything about the stars themselves that she should take into consideration. She copied a diagram of the constellation from the text onto a spare piece of parchment, and labeled the stars carefully, using a ruler to draw crisp, straight lines from one star to another to form the outline of the twins. She leaned back in her chair, looking at the copy, and thinking, earnestly and energetically, what am I missing?

 

“Is that a constellation?”

 

A familiar voice broke her from her thoughts, and her reflexes were such that she slapped her hand down onto the parchment before she could stop herself. Harry and Hermione stood opposite her, each looking taken aback by her reaction. She could see curiosity light up in their eyes as she tried to casually place her hands on the cover of the text to obscure its title.

 

“Sorry,” she muttered, exhaling. She straightened her spine, looking up from her hands to their faces. “You scared me! I wasn’t expecting anyone to come looking for me here.”

 

“I was worried you might have lost track of time, which you did! You’ve missed lunch.” Hermione explained matter-of-factly, pulling a half of a sandwich wrapped in a napkin from her bag and offering it to Evelyn. “And you’ll be late for Potions if you keep on like that.”

 

“Potions already?” Evelyn was surprised, and she couldn’t help but check her watch to make sure Hermione wasn’t teasing her.

 

“Yes, unfortunately.” Harry said, “Ron’s already made his way down to the dungeon. He said he’d gather up the ingredients for us. He’s been grumbling about how Slughorn wouldn’t notice if he did all of our potions himself, and we didn’t bother to show. I think he’s still annoyed about being called Wombat last week.”

 

Evelyn smiled, placing the text to a nearby cart to be returned to the shelves. She could feel Hermione’s eyes follow her movements, but her friend said nothing. Wise, she thought, knowing Hermione would bring it up later in the dorm when they would discuss it alone. By then, she thought, she could come up with a decent reason for the extracurricular reading.

 

And by then, she hoped, she might have an appointment to see Dumbledore. Her mind was burning with the details she’d read, and she could feel understanding shifting into place. It was time, she thought, to see him. She needed to know what he knew, and she resolved to mention something to her aunt immediately after Potions.

 

In the meantime, she wanted to reduce her friends’ curiosity, so she replied to Harry as if it was the only thing on her mind, “I think Ron’s frustration is understandable. Slughorn has had several months to figure out his name! It’s the least he could do.”

 

“I’m sure Ronald is more frustrated by being left out of the Slug Club. Though, he’s lucky to be forgotten if you ask me.” Hermione added simply. Slughorn had invited all three of them into his club, and never seemed to have an issue remembering their names. Even Evelyn, who had been extended an invitation later in the semester and had yet to attend any of the parties, was called by name.

 

“The worst part is that Slughorn doesn’t seem to have a problem remembering Ginny’s name, and she’s told me that she often mentions her brothers to Slughorn. But he only seems to have remembered Charlie.” Harry added, smiling a bit to himself.

 

The conversation lulled as the trio made their way through the castle, descending into the darker passageways of the dungeon. Hermione made a bit of small talk about what she anticipated the lesson would cover, and Evelyn added some in the hopes of seeming less distracted than she actually was. However, she wondered how convincing she might have been, as she didn’t realize until it was too late that Harry had slowed his pace and Hermione had sped hers up as they approached the hallway leading to the classroom—and Evelyn had been slow, too, which had left her a few paces behind Hermione and open to solicitation.

 

Harry seized the opportunity, saying quietly, “Actually—before we head in—I came with Hermione to ask you,” He had turned a hopeful set of green eyes to her, and she looked back at him, knowing immediately how he intended to finish his sentence. “Could you meet to duel next week? Tuesday? We were supposed to have Quidditch practice, but had to switch days with the Ravenclaws and—if you’re free—”

 

She wanted so desperately for him to forget about her strange behavior in the library that she found herself nodding despite herself.

 

Harry looked as if Christmas had come around again, and motioned as if he were going to hug her but came up short, clapping her awkwardly on the shoulder with his free hand instead. “You’ve no idea how much help you’ve been, Evie.”

 

She nodded curtly, shrugging his hand away and turning into the classroom where she was spared having to tell him that he wasn’t helping her at all—that he was only making things more complicated.  

 

 

 

 

Author’s Note: Much of the prophecy hinges on important details from Greek and Roman mythology, which comes from a variety of sources including The Illiad, the work of Edith Hamilton, and a lifetime obsession with Greek mythology and astrology.

 

Please note that one important reference made in this chapter are the two quotes that Evelyn notes in the text, which come from the Ancient Greek play Iphigenia in Aulis, written by the playwright Euripides. I hope you enjoyed this chapter! It was interesting to write, especially as it required unpacking a lot of things that I’d tucked away since I wrote the prophecy itself so long ago. I hope you notice one very important detail in Evelyn’s research—if you did, I think you’ll be able to tell which twin is represented by Helen and which is represented by Clytemnestra! Love to hear your guesses in the reviews. Always, Antigone



Chapter 33: Liberacorpus
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Evelyn met Harry outside of the Room of Requirement on Tuesday. She had spent the minutes leading up to his arrival staring out the nearby window and watching flurries drift past. She could hardly believe it was February already. Valentine’s Day was coming up, and she smiled to herself as she thought that her only date was with the Headmaster. Her aunt had notified him that she was ready to meet, and he had agreed to make time for her as soon as he returned from his travels. She was looking forward to discussing how and when she might expect her sister to make an attempt on her life.

 

Harry, who was escorted to the meeting spot by Ginny, called her name to draw her attention from the window and from her musings.

 

“You look happy,” he commented, dropping his arm from Ginny’s waist so that he could run his hand through his hair.

 

“Just thinking over something funny,” she admitted, keeping her dark humor to herself.

 

She could tell the response intrigued him, but he was soon distracted by Ginny who tugged at his hand and smiled flirtatiously at him before asking softly, in a tone that seemed to be an attempt to keep Evelyn from their conversation, “Should I meet you back here in an hour?”

 

He didn’t seem to notice the way her posture demanded he say yes, as instead Harry responded, “No, I’m not sure we’ll be done in an hour. I’ll meet you back in the common room.”

 

Evelyn could see the dark look flutter across Ginny’s face, which somehow worked only to encourage her smile. It was obvious the younger girl didn’t trust Evelyn with her boyfriend, but she wasn’t willing to make a scene because of it at that moment. She wondered if Ginny had offered to practice dueling with Harry or if she had told him that she didn’t think he needed the practice. He had told her of his time leading Dumbledore’s Army, and she assumed that Ginny had reminded him of that. Evelyn could imagine the whole conversation between the two of them, complete with Ginny rolling her eyes when Harry insisted he needed the practice and trying again and again to change his mind with various lines of argument. Ginny just seemed like that type of girl—she liked to win, she liked to be right, and she liked to have sway over her boyfriend.

 

Ginny kept her eyes locked on Harry, conceding only when his smile failed to falter. She whispered again, “Alright then, be safe.”

 

“Not to worry,” He replied continuing to smile as he leaned in and pecked her briefly on the cheek.

 

He looked happy just then, and Evelyn could feel her own smile lessen and she averted her eyes from the parting couple. She wanted Harry to be happy—if anyone deserved it, it was him. She just had a hard time fighting off the part of her that felt he couldn’t possibly be happy with Ginny.  

 

 

Once they were inside, they talked briefly about where they’d left off last term.

 

“Do you feel confident in your nonverbal casting?” Evelyn asked as she stooped down to tie her trainers. She flexed her ankles a little, stretching out her calves. She could feel herself doing just about anything to keep her eyes off of Harry. It would be easier to look at him when she was attacking him, she reasoned.

 

“I think I might be alright, depending on the spell.”

 

“Well, let’s give it a try. It’s obviously a huge advantage, and if you can at least strengthen some of them then you’ll have a few in your arsenal you can rely on.”

 

Evelyn looked at Harry in time to see him nod curtly, and though he offered her his hand to help her up she moved away from him and got up on her own, smiling tersely. He looked a little bothered, but she chose to ignore it. She couldn’t allow herself to care about his feelings right then, and she indulged herself in the pettiness of thinking, he has a girlfriend for that.

 

Just before they moved into their stance, Harry ventured, “How many nonverbal spells do you feel confident doing?”

 

She thought it over for a moment. They’d been practicing nonverbal spells as a part of their dueling regiment at the Academy for the better part of a year when she had left, and she had spent at least the past two years thwarting nonverbal attacks from Elizabeth whenever their fights descended into spellcasting at home.

 

“A few,” she replied, trying not to simper.

 

Within moments, they were volleying spells back and forth. They moved at a slower pace than normal—Evelyn, at first, thinking they were just settling in. However, she began to notice the way Harry’s brow knitted together and the tightness of his jaw, and she knew they were moving slowly because he was struggling to produce the spells nonverbally. She confirmed her suspicion by quickening her own tempo, hitting him first with a stinging jinx and then disarming him.

 

She caught his wand triumphantly, smiling as he humbly raised his hands in the air.

 

“Harder than you expected?”

 

“No,” he admitted, “As hard as it’s been all year, really. I think nonverbal magic is one of the most difficult things we’ve been asked to do so far.”

 

“Really?” She closed the space between them and handing over his wand. “That surprises me.”

 

“Everyone seems to be struggling with it.”

 

“Even Hermione?”

 

He scoffed, “No, though there’s no surprise there.”

 

“Did you ask her how she comes by it so easily?”

 

“No,” he paused, looking at his wand as if he was willing it to follow his lead.

 

“You should—you always should. She’s typically pretty good at explaining. She’d make a good teacher.”

 

“I know,” he muttered, eying her somewhat resentfully before asking, “How do you do it?”

 

She fought the urge to shrug. “We worked on it for a long time last year, so it almost feels more natural than saying the spell aloud now. When we first started, our professors encouraged us to pronounce the spell in our head just as we would aloud. You use to be able to see classmates move their lips silently, which was helpful in dueling—you knew what was coming. But, now, I don’t have to do that as deliberately. It’s second nature now.”

 

“Not so helpful,” he glowered.

 

“Right, I didn’t expect it to be.” She paused, thinking it over a bit more. “I guess it started coming to me more after Theo pointed out that we were always able to do magic—you know, as kids. We didn’t need wands, and we didn’t know spells. So we’ve always been able to do it. It’s just a matter of remembering that.”

 

He looked at her thoughtfully before conceding. “More helpful.”

 

It proved to be so, as a few minutes later he was moving faster through his spellcasting and was able to deflect a few of her jinxes before she disarmed him again.

 

“What were you trying to cast just then?”

 

Locomotor Mortis,” he replied, wiping his brow a bit.

 

“Good choice,” Evelyn said, smiling, “What do you think stopped you from being able to cast it?”

 

He shrugged in response, and though she felt she knew he had a reason she didn’t push him further. Instead, she said only, “If you feel yourself getting tripped up or you want to cast a spell that you don’t feel confident about, cast it verbally. It’s better to cast it than to allow a lull in battle. Your opponent will take that opportunity every time. Worse case scenario, I deflect your verbal spell. But at least I’ve spent my next move deflecting your spell rather than disarming you.”

 

“Or killing me,” He muttered as he moved back into position.

 

Evelyn nodded, a grim feeling squeezing her stomach. She pushed it down, trying to ignore all of her feelings. She had been having a good time thus far, finding dueling to be just as carthartic an exercise then as it had always been. She had spent the last few days worrying that her feelings for Harry might complicate the practice, but had been happily distracted with attacking him (which was its own kind of cartharsis). She didn’t want anything to bubble up then, to distract or disarm her emotionally.

 

So she pushed everything down, and instead counted off. Turning towards him, she immediately deflected his first spell and stepped left, moving her wand in a sharp line through the air as she fired a curse at Harry. He deflected it, sending it to the wall where it dinged the stone. She deflected his next spell, and immediately fired the same spell at him, casting it three times in rapid succession. He had noticed she did this often, however, and instead of deflecting the first one (and getting hit with the second or third) he cast a shield charm verbally. “Good!” she shouted, firing a cutting jinx at his shield. She could see it begin to crumble, and felt something akin to glee bubble up in her stomach.

 

She couldn’t deny that it was in dueling that she felt most relaxed. She moved quickly to the right, trying to slip a spell past Harry’s shield. Her spell collided with the one he had been attempting to send at her, around his shield, and the spells fizzled out in a brilliant shower of lime green sparks. She allowed herself to chuckle, before sending a few more towards his shield. She wanted to bring it down as quickly as she could—and she did, immediately following it with a verbal casting of “Lapifors,” which Harry deflected.

 

“Really!” He shouted, laughing, “What would you have done if that had hit me?”

 

“Called you Thumper and fed you carrots.” She replied cheekily, before casting Cantis nonverbally. Harry deflected it nonverbally, looking more at ease in his body and his spellwork than he had when they began.

 

The tempo increased, and instead of deflecting his next spell, Evelyn threw herself to the ground to dodge it, rolling to the right and casting Carpe Retractum nonverbally, delighting as the rope that flew from her wand wrapped around Harry’s ankle. She stood, pulling her wand back at an angle as the rope pulled him off his feet and began to draw him towards her. He grunted as he hit the floor, disoriented momentarily before coming to his senses and using the cutting jinx to free himself. The rope reeled back into her wand, disappearing as Harry loosened the excess rope from his ankle and got back to his feet.

 

“If you wanted me closer, you could have just said something.” He teased, casting nonverbally and hitting Evelyn before she could deflect it. She rose immediately into the air by her ankle, and found herself suspended upside down. The blood rushed to her head, and she let out a laugh as she watched an inverted Harry advance towards her. There had only been a handful of times that Harry had bested her at practice, and she was delighted for him each time because he seemed to recognize it as a feat of sorts.

 

“Are you going to let me down?” She asked, reaching out and grabbing on to his shoulders when he was near enough. Holding on to him helped her steady herself, and made her feel less disoriented.

 

“Only when you declare me winner.”

 

“You never declare me winner when I best you.”

 

“All the times you’ve won—I haven’t wanted it to go to your head.”

 

She chuckled, “There’s something going to my head now. Let me down!” He eyed her playfully, and she added, “Winner,” with a grin.

 

Liberacorpus,” Harry said, returning her to her feet and placing his arms under hers to steady her.

 

Evelyn was laughing from the motion until she realized how close she was to him. He smelled a little earthy, like pine or grass (she wasn’t sure), and something else that she couldn’t identify but that felt warm and familiar to her. She found herself stuck here, halfway into his arms and lazing in his eyes. He was looking back at her, seemingly just as happy to have her that close to him as she was to be that close to him—and as she realized that, she pulled back immediately, straightening her sweater and stepping away from him awkwardly. Her smile was lost, and she knew she couldn’t be there with him anymore.

 

“Well, let’s leave on a high note—?” She managed, trying to reclaim her laidback tone and general good humor, but even she could tell her tone sounded strained.

 

“Evelyn—” Harry started, but never finished. “I’m sure Ginny is waiting on you.” She said pointedly, pushing a lock of hair behind her ear and doing just about anything to keep her eyes off of Harry. As she moved towards the door, she added, “I’ll see you around.”

 

It took only a few seconds for Harry to gather himself, and follow her out the door, calling after her to no avail. The hall was empty.  

 


 

On Friday, Elizabeth and Draco walked in silence to the Room of Requirement to again inspect the vanishing cabinet. Draco had worked on it earlier that week, and they were hopeful that his latest repair might allow an object to travel successfully to the sister cabinet at Borgin and Burkes.

 

He had insisted on testing an inanimate object before they attempted a human traveler, despite Elizabeth’s argument that there were a few first-year students no one would miss. He had refused, nevertheless, and when they met in the common room that evening he was holding an apple, which he repeatedly tossed as they walked together. She mused to herself, in the silence, that the sharp smack of the fruit against his palm embodied his anxiety. His shoulders were tense with it, too, and she almost wished there was something she could do or say to make him relax. Not so much to reassure him or prop him up, but to stop his feelings from affecting her.

 

Draco had maintained a cool camaraderie with Elizabeth since their argument at the beginning of term. In the last week or so, she had noticed that he had even begun to watch her again, as he had at the start of the year, but he maintained an aloof distance as much as possible. His playboy airs were back in full swing, as well, and she had even seen him cavorting with a handful of Slytherian girls on various evenings in the common room. She was hopeful that he was back to his old self, but the anxiety that was strung about him just then made her doubtful. She hadn’t realized how much she had missed his pride and his prejudice until she had seen him crumble behind a ghost in the women’s restrooms, and then attempt to claw back up to respectability during their argument.

 

As they walked, she mused over these ideas, crediting herself for reestablishing his confidence and thinking that this was a game she liked to play: bending Draco until he was just about to break, and then straightening him out—so he stood tall and proud, driven and virile. In this latter state, she found him irresistible, and was almost annoyed that he felt good enough to give his attention to other girls. She realized that if he would have been able to maintain his confidence that she might not have been able to reject him. Perhaps, if he found success with the cabinet and his task, he might.

 

She wouldn’t allow herself to hope for anything though. As she said to him, she wanted the Dark Lord to make the decision for her and she wanted to show Him the depth of her faith—and that sentiment was stronger than the ideas she had of Draco or the memories of his breath on her face, the tension that was always erupting from his body when she was just out reach, or even the way he exhaled a bit when she finally let him kiss her.

 

He hadn’t made any advances towards her since the hunt, and she briefly wondered—despite her faithfulness to her Lord—what it would take to get him there again. The thoughts filled her head so much so that she hadn’t realized they’d arrived at their destination until she was almost walking into the wall.

 

“Distracted by something?” Draco drawled.

 

“You wish.” She shot back, snatching the apple from the air as he tossed it again. She smirked as he rolled his eyes, taking a step ahead of her to open the room up. He led her through the maze of discarded objects and lost belongings, eventually coming up to the familiar cabinet.

 

“Apple, please,” Draco said, opening up the door and gesturing towards the spot where he wanted her to place it. She followed, taking a step back as he closed the door. He drew his wand, and muttered the incantation.

 

They exchanged a brief glance, before he pocketed his wand and reached forward, opening the door to reveal an empty cabinet. The apple was gone.

 

She could see and feel the anxiety leave his body. His shoulders rolled down his back, as he stood taller than she had seen him in weeks. There it was, that pride that she found so alluring. It seemed to glow in his cheeks as he suppressed a smile, pushing his hair back into place and snapping the cabinet shut.

 

“Now what?”

 

“We wait. Burkin knew I’d be attempting this today, so he should be there to receive the apple. He will send me a detailed account of its condition on arrival, and he should return it here to prove the cabinet works both ways.”

 

“So we wait? For how long?”

 

“I’m not sure,” he said, a scowl tugging downward at the corners of his lips. “Do you have somewhere to be?”

 

She crossed her arms and took a step back, lowering herself onto a stool nearby. “Well, it’s nearly Valentine’s Day. Perhaps I do.”

 

She knew as soon as the words came out of her mouth that she had said them only to provoke him. She had nowhere to be, though she had a few offers. She had planned to reject them, or at least put them off until the party that was meant to occur on Saturday after the Hogsmeade trip. But now, looking at Draco blanche and turn away from her, she thought perhaps she wouldn’t—perhaps she would cavort, too. She smiled, unabashedly seizing the opportunity to have some fun with him.

 

“I thought you were allowing Him to decide for you.”

 

“That doesn’t mean I can’t test drive a few models.”

 

“You seem to have a more liberal perception of your situation than you portrayed in our earlier discussion.” His tone was overly measured, and his neck was red. He wouldn’t turn back towards her. He seemed to be applying himself diligently to a pile of abandoned items, stacked high near the cabinet.

 

“Well, originally I was thinking I would say no to Miles and Theodore. And to Roger, too, of course. But, perhaps it wouldn’t be too horrible to share a meal with one of them or to dance for awhile on Saturday night.” She paused, trying to decide how far to push him. She crossed her legs, leaning towards him a little and smirking as she added, “It might be nice to feel someone’s hands on me, you know? It’s been awhile.”

 

He had reached upward in a pretend examination of a coat rack, and she could see how white his knuckles were turning as his grip tightened around its middle column. The stack of things teetered, and she felt almost gleeful. She was smiling broadly when he turned back around, disgust and anger alit on his face as he finally looked at her.

 

“Bletchley and Nott? And Roger—?”

 

“Malone. Roger Malone.” She supplied.

 

“You’ve got to be kidding me.”

 

“About them asking me out for Valentine’s? No, they each asked—Roger was the most surprising—”

 

He cut her off, “Not them asking. I’m sure they’ve asked. About accepting them, about letting them touch you.” His voice was filled with disgust when he finally got the last sentence out. His eyes were flashing, and she thought again of how much she enjoyed pushing him like this. She knew where all of his buttons were, and she delighted at the pressing of each one.

 

“For a dance, or a drink? Why not? I haven’t been discouraged from it, and they’re all Purebloods.”

 

“Did you need to be actively discouraged from dating a Ravenclaw?”

 

“What’s wrong with Ravenclaw? They’re intelligent, and Roger is actually quite nice looking.”

 

Draco scoffed, “Yeah, if you like pricks.”

 

Elizabeth leaned forward a bit more, smiling like the Cheshire cat. “You don’t even know him, I’m sure. You only ever associate with your fellow Slytherians.”

 

“Which is how I know that you would hate Nott—and Bletchley for that matter.”

 

“Oh really?”

 

“Nott’s a loner. A creep. Haven’t you noticed the way he lurks about? It’s disgusting.”

 

She had assumed that would be his objection to Theodore, as it was hers as well. His was the one offer she had already declined, but she couldn’t have spared him from the list simply because she knew Draco would be irritated by it. If she was being honest with herself, she had been surprised Nott had even approached her since he didn’t talk to anyone really. She couldn’t even imagine making it through a meal with him as her only companion.

 

“The Dark Lord might not think so. He might choose him for my betrothal, for all I know. Shouldn’t I keep an open mind?” She leant back on the stool, balancing on one hand and watching Draco intently. He looked a bit dumbfounded and angry, and he kept turning from her whenever she spoke to take a few steps away before coming back towards her with his response.

 

“He won’t pick Theodore Nott for you.”

 

“You say that with so much certainty.”

 

“Nott isn’t impressive enough. The Dark Lord will pick a leader for you, someone worthy of your rank.”

 

“He said that himself,” she said, smiling more genuinely now as Draco echoed the Dark Lord. Then she added coyly, “Do you think Bletchley might be worthy?” Out of the three, he was the one that had been most interesting to her, and she immediately knew from the hard line of Draco’s mouth that Miles Bletchley was the most threatening of these new suitors.

 

“He might be,” Draco grinded out, his tone hard yet earnest. She thought the honesty in that moment must have nearly killed him. “His parents support our cause, but aren’t active. They’re quite old. He’s shown interest in getting involved, but hasn’t been formally approached yet. For someone without parents in the Dark Lord’s circle, this isn’t surprising. A lot of the recruitment happens after graduation—so Bletchley will show his true colors come June. I suppose it will depend on his decision.”

 

She watched him intently, and when she didn’t make a reply after a few moments Draco added, “Do you fancy becoming Elizabeth Bletchley?

 

“It doesn’t sound too horrible.” She shrugged, standing from the stool and stretching a bit. She wanted to check the cabinet, but wasn’t sure if it was too soon. She walked towards it, placing her hand on the black-varnished door. She kept her eyes away from Draco, running her hand along the woodwork.

 

“It doesn’t sound right to me.” He said clearly, and she could tell he had taken a step towards her.

 

“Did you prefer Elizabeth Malfoy?” She asked, turning. He was closer to her than she had thought, an arm’s length away. His eyes were flashing again, but his color had returned to normal. He looked somewhat less angry then, and she assumed he must have realized she’d been teasing him.

 

“I think you know the answer to that question, Ellie.”

 

She took a step towards him, putting herself in a position where she could feel the heat coming from his body and his breath on her cheek. The hairs on her arms rose up in goosebumps, and she locked eyes with him. She loved getting this close to him—but no closer. It always made her feel powerful.

 

“I suppose it will depend on His decision then.” She said coyly, copying his sentence and smirking a little.

 

“Why do you do this?” He was studying her intently, and she was pleased to see that their exchanged had washed all of the anxiety from him.

 

“I like the way you look when you’re jealous.”

 

Before he could reply, a small thump echoed from inside the cabinet and they both turned their attention to it. Tripping in their anxiousness, they came to the cabinet eagerly and Draco’s hand landed on the door pull before they could even breathe a word to one another. He pulled the door open greedily, and their eyes landed on the apple, which was sitting in the middle of the cabinet exactly where they had placed it before its departure.

 

It was still shiny and green, but now it had a large bite taken out of it.



Chapter 34: Everyday Things
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Valentine’s Day fell on Friday that year, and was followed on Saturday by a trip to Hogsmeade. Evelyn, Hermione, and Serenity walked down to the village together, stepping carefully on the snowy path.

 

Many of the students were walking down in pairs, holding hands or leaning into each other’s embraces. As they entered the main lane, the couples seemed to head purposefully into a handful of establishments, primarily Madam Puddifoot’s Tea Shop or Honeydukes. Evelyn noticed two or three couples wander further down the lane, probably to find a spot near the Shrieking Shack where they could find some privacy.

 

Evelyn smiled to herself as the couples disappeared down the lane, feeling a slight pang at the thought that a year or two ago that would have been her and Theo, ducking around a corner to steal some privacy from their friends. She didn’t miss him so much, as the thrill of having someone. Nevertheless, she hadn’t even thought of asking someone other than her friends to go into the village with her. She’d been preoccupied with the prophecy and her schoolwork since the beginning of term, and her mind was still mulling over what she had learned and what was still unknown. Each day she was increasingly anxious for the Headmaster’s return.

 

She tried to push the thoughts away, tuning into the conversation between her friends instead.

 

“Should we divide and conquer?”

 

“Our errands?” Evelyn asked.

 

“Yes,” Serenity confirmed, smiling in the knowing way that suggested she knew Evelyn hadn’t been listening. “Hermione was just saying that she wanted to go into Tomes and Scrolls then Dogweed and Deathcap. But, I need to go into Gladrags and perhaps Scrivenshaft—depending on how much money I have left after I leave Gladrags!”

 

“And I need to go to the Post Office—I received a note this morning that said there was a package waiting there for me. Not sure why they didn’t forward it to the school.”

 

“It seems to make the most sense to part ways,” Hermione concluded, “That way we can meet at the Three Broomsticks before the lunch rush. I’d rather get a table before all the couples come that way.”

 

“Ok! Then, let’s go—and if either of you finish up early, come find me at Gladrags. I’ll need the feedback.” Serenity had spent a good portion of the walk down discussing a set of dress robes she’d seen in Witch Weekly that she was considering purchasing with some of her Christmas money, but she wasn’t sure how the pattern would look on her. She had a family wedding over the spring holiday that she wanted them for, and she looked eager as she departed for the wizardwear store.

 

Tomes and Scrolls sat at the opposite end of the road as the post office, so Evelyn and Hermione separated there, the only solitary figures on the High Street. Evelyn tried to focus on the beautiful white dusting that covered the streets in an effort to distract her brain. If she allowed herself to, she could have spent the whole afternoon mulling over the prophecy—just as she had the previous night, after supper, when she’d laid on her bed, quietly staring up at the hangings until Hermione came in to turn down the lamps and get ready for bed.

 

Right then, though, she wanted to be present. She wanted to enjoy the day away from the castle.

 

“Fancy seeing you here,” a familiar voice called to her, just as she was worried she wouldn’t be able to fight off her thoughts.

 

Her eyes met George Weasley’s, and a pleased smile broke across her face, her thoughts immediately dispersing. “Shouldn’t I be the one fancying that? What are you doing here?”

 

He had been exiting the Post Office as she approached, and was standing just in front of the door, looking bright eyed and happy to see her. He offered her a hug, and she accepted it happily. “Some extracurricular activities, if you know my meaning. Seemed like a decent reason to get away from the shop. I’m supposed to meet Marie now that I’m done, and we’re going to see my friend at the Wizarding Wireless offices.”

 

“Ah, so you left Fred to tend the business while you took your girlfriend on a date?” She joked, knowing that whatever business he might be attending to just then must have been related to the Order.

 

“Something like that,” he joked, smiling. “Headed in?”

 

Evelyn nodded, “There’s a package here for me apparently—and I figured it might be a good excuse to get something out to my aunt. She’s actually staying with your brother in Romania just now, covering some of the tensions that have been developing there.”

 

“Yeah, Charlie wrote home to my mum earlier this week and said Demeter had just arrived. They seemed to be getting along fine—he introduced her to some of his dragons.” As he spoke, he turned back around and opened the door to the office for her. They walked in together, and she was suddenly happy for the companion as the office was filled with hundreds of owls, each looking down on her with critical eyes.

 

“Wow,” she whispered, returning the gaze of the large birds. The office was filled with the rustling of feathers and soft hooting, and a small man stood behind the counter sorting through a stack of letters.

 

“Back already, Mr. Weasley?” He asked, not looking up.

 

“Brought a friend this time, Mr. Ibis.”

 

The postmaster looked up at Evelyn over the thin wire frames he was wearing, and seemed to ask with his eyes what her business was.

 

“I received this note that said there was a package waiting here for me,” she explained, feeling for all the world as if the owls were watching her as she fished the piece of paper out of her pocket and presented it to the postmaster.  

 

“Hm, yes—looks like the package was meant for Hogwarts, but was misdirected here. Unfortunately my Scops were too small to bring it to you, and I never send the larger birds to Hogwarts. Store policy.”

 

He disappeared behind a large shelving unit, which held slots of mail all the way to the ceiling with various sized owls resting on the uppermost shelves. When he returned, he carried with him a package the size of a shoebox, which was wrapped in bright red paper. The handwriting was Lacey’s, and she smiled as she signed the receipt and took the package from him.

 

“I’d like to send this as well,” she said, presenting her letter to Demeter with the address for Charlie Weasley’s flat printed neatly on the front. He nodded, looking up at his owls and gesturing to one in particular. It came down, accepting a grape from the postmaster before extending its leg to him. He secured the letter to the owl deftly, and then walked to a small window at the end of the counter, which he opened. The owl flew out of it immediately.

 

Evelyn paid for the fare, and wished the postmaster a happy new year before she followed George out of the shop. She felt relieved to return to the street. The owls had felt almost oppressive, and she much preferred the open air and bright light of High Street.

 

“Any other errands?”

 

“No, that’s all for me actually. I suppose I’ll just wander the streets aimlessly until it’s time to lunch.” She chided, smiling at him as they began to walk together in the direction of the Wizarding Wireless offices.

 

“Alone this Valentine’s Day?” He joked, nudging her a bit with his elbow.

 

“Not entirely! My female companions and I parted ways to attend to some errands and save time. I’m supposed to meet Serenity and Hermione at the Three Broomsticks later for an early lunch.”

 

“So no male suitors escorting you to the tea room this afternoon?”

 

“All the male suitors at Hogwarts seemed to have their attentions set on other, more available women.”

 

“Their loss then.”  

 


 

Hermione left Tomes and Scrolls empty handed, and walked quickly down the lane towards Dogweed and Deathcap, where she hoped to find some dried plants that were missing from her potions kit and that Slughorn had advised them to have on-hand the following week. The Herbology store felt overgrown, with plants hanging from the ceiling and almost spilling off of the shelves. Hermione stepped over a long root that took up much of the center aisle. A sign hung near the register, ivy almost completely covering the words, “Mind Yourself: Dangerous Plants Live Here.

 

She was so focused on watching her step that she almost ran directly into another student, who was considering a potted plant near the end of the aisle.

 

“Sorry,” she began to say, looking up into the familiar face of Christian Graves.

 

“No worries, Hermione. I’m sure I’m not being nearly as mindful as I should be.” He joked, turning towards her and shoving his hands into his pockets. “I came looking for some ingredients, but I was distracted by this Wiggentree sapling.” He gestured to the thin tree, set at the end of the aisle in a large clay pot. There was a small plaque stuck inside the pot, detailing the various properties of the Wiggentree and outlining various reasons for purchasing it. “Not something I could justify bringing back to the dorm though—think my mates might disapprove.” “Were you looking for the potion ingredients that Slughorn told us to have?”

 

He nodded, “They’re out—if they ever had them at all. Doesn’t look like the ingredients section has been stocked in several decades.” He gestured over his shoulder to a set of rusty, half-empty shelves that housed a few packages of ingredients, each obscured under a layer of dust.

 

She huffed, feeling a bit defeated by her venture thus far. “I guess I can check Pippin’s, might have some luck there.”

 

“I’ll go with you,” Christian offered, smiling as he followed her out of the store. “I thought it might be worth checking the Magic Neep, too, for the shrivelfig and sopophorous beans.”

 

“Right,” Hermione looked over her shoulder, smiling at Christian, “I didn’t think of the grocer.”

 

They walked down the street in amiable silence, eventually finding everything they needed at the two stores, and wandering about together, killing time before Hermione was meant to meet the girls for lunch. Christian insisted on carrying Hermione’s bags for her. As they walked past Gladrags, they looked through the window and spied Serenity, turning on a pedestal in a hideous set of fuscia robes in front of Evelyn, who seemed to be shaking her head ardently.

 

“Should we go in and help Evie persuade her against them?” Christian asked, and Hermione could see his reflection in the window breaking into a smile.

 

“I’m surprised you aren’t in there with her, to be honest.” Hermione said, turning to him. He cocked an eyebrow, and she added, “You’re seeing each other, aren’t you?”

 

Christian laughed, shaking his head, “No—everyone thinks that, but no. We’re just really good friends. Actually, we grew up on the same street. Only two wizarding families in the neighborhood. I think our mothers were always relieved that we got on so well, because they relied on each other.”

 

Hermione nodded, not knowing what to say. Christian continued, “I guess it’s kind of like you and Ron Weasley—or Harry Potter for that matter. Everyone always assumes.”

 

That she could respond to. “It’s a bit frustrating, always having to defend yourself—insisting you know your own feelings.” Her cheeks were pink, and she hoped he thought it was from the cold.

 

“Exactly! It’s refreshing that you didn’t say really just now—I always feel that I have to persuade people that there isn’t anything between Serenity and me. And the conversation always feels incriminating.”

 

“It’s not fair.” Hermione agreed, remembering all of the times she’d argued with people about her feelings for Harry, especially after all the headlines fourth year. The memories alone were frustrating. Since Ron and Lavender had began dating, the conversations had only become more so. Though, she was hopeful now, that some of those feelings could be dismissed. He had been dating Lavender for so long now that it seemed hopeless to continue on; he’d never feel that way for her, and it seemed best to accept it now rather than to continue feeling angry and annoyed. A New Year’s resolution, she thought.  

 

“It makes it hard to see other people, you know? A lot of girls don’t seem interested because my best friend is a girl. Somehow that makes me less trustworthy.”

 

“That’s ridiculous!” Hermione exclaimed, looking at him shocked. “You’re smart and talented, and you—” She stopped herself from completing the sentence, her pink cheeks turning a deeper shade of red that was most definitely a blush. He looked at her out of the corner of his eye, and she stumbled as she completed the sentence, revising as she went. “And you—you seem like you would be a wonderful date.”

 

He laughed, and she continued to blush as she assumed he was indeed smart enough to realize that hadn’t been the original way she’d planned to end her sentence. Christian gave her a pass though, smiling charmingly at her. “You’re smart and talented, too. And, if you consider this somewhat of a date, then I’d say it is indeed wonderful.”

 

Her blush deepened, and she wondered briefly if he would consider it a date—something that hadn’t even occurred to her. They found themselves at the door of the Three Broomsticks, and she smiled as the opened the door for her again as he said, “Let me buy you a drink.”

 

She nodded, speechless but happy.  

 


 

Hermione and Christian were eventually joined by Serenity and Evelyn, who was happy to recount her run-in with George and her ability to dissuade Serenity from the fuscia robes.

 

They made a happy group in the warm pub, and spent a bit of gold on a few rounds of drinks, toasting to being young, single, and open-minded. When they eventually left for the castle, their bellies were full and their steps were uncertain—Evelyn, for one, feeling a little too full of drink. It had gone right to her head, and she was happy to have Serenity there to steady herself as she slipped and slid along the path back to school.

 

When they reached the entrance hall, Evelyn was recounting how George has escorted her to Gladrags. “He offered me his arm, like an actually gentleman! And he’s funny, and sweet, and nice. He gave me a little peck before he left to meet Marie. Where did he come from? Where can we find more of him?”

 

Serenity shook her head, “Does he always kiss you before he goes to meet his girlfriend?” She was smiling, but her right eyebrow had quirked up.

 

“Yeah, he always has—ever since we spent so much time together in the summer. He’s a good friend to me.” As the words came out of her mouth, she knew that it was true. He was an amazing friend, in league with Lacey, Theo, Serenity, and Hermione. At times, she found she valued him even more because he offered such a different perspective and constant reassurance. He wrote to her consistently, showed up at the most opportune moments (as if he knew she needed him), and knew how to make her laugh even when she was feeling terribly low. She almost wished there was a romantic spark between them, but as they had walked the streets together that afternoon she felt they both knew there wasn’t. He loved Marie—and, even if he didn’t, Evelyn didn’t love him like that.

 

“Too bad,” Serenity said, adding almost as an afterthought, “He already seems to love you.”

 

Evelyn nodded, looking back through the open Entrance Hall doors in the direction of Hogsmeade. “I love him, too—you know? Just not in that way.”

 

The girls continued to chat, glancing every few moments over at Christian and Hermione, who were a few paces away and taking their time to separate their bags. Though out of earshot, they both looked aglow, and Serenity and Evelyn were quick to speculate on what was blossoming there.

 

“Do you see what I see?” Evelyn asked with a smirk.

 

“I do,” Serenity replied. “You know, I think he’s always had a thing for her. I think he always wished she would have been sorted into Ravenclaw—would have made it easier for him to get to know her.” They watched as the couple brushed hands as Hermione took her bag from Christian and smiled at something he said.

 

“Really? I never got that vibe from him, when we studied at the library. He seemed totally himself. Like, he treated her the way he would treat me.”

 

“Yeah, he’s always been very cool. Even under pressure. That’s just Christian.” Serenity’s smirk turned into a smile, and she shrugged.

 

Evelyn thought about the next question she wanted to ask for a moment before asking it, but she decided it was worth asking nonetheless and said softly, “Would it bother you if they coupled off?”

 

They had talked about Serenity’s feelings for Christian before, early in their friendship when Evelyn was trying to better understand the duo. Serenity had spent a few rounds insisting they were just friends, very close friends, and then after several attempts at denial she had finally admitted that she had wondered what it would be like to be more than friends, but it had never really leant itself to that. There had been opportunities, roundabout conversations, and even the occasional kiss—like on New Years, when he’d kissed her forehead at the stroke of midnight. It had never been more though.

 

“You know, he’s my best friend. I want him to have anything that might make him happy—even if that means Hermione.” Serenity’s sharp, dark eyes were on Christian the whole time she spoke, and Evelyn knew she was being sincere.

 

“It’s different than George and me, though, isn’t it?”

 

“Yeah, it is, but that doesn’t change anything.” Serenity turned to look at Evelyn then, a genuine smile on her face. She felt amazed by her friend just then, knowing the strength that it would take to watch your best friend—your person—pursue someone else. Evelyn didn’t possess that kind of strength, she knew, because she hated Ginny.

 

Like an apparition or an omen, Ginny appeared just then, hanging off of Harry’s arm and laughing at something he must have been saying. Her cheeks were glowing, and there were a few flakes of snow in her hair. She looked enchanting—and Harry looked enchanted.

 

Ron and Lavender followed behind, looking significantly less enthusiastic. The couples waved at Serenity and Evelyn as they passed, and Evelyn thought that Harry looked as if he wanted to stop to chat, but just as they neared Ginny whispered something in his ear and they continued on with nothing more than a chorus of hello’s. She rolled her eyes a bit after they passed, shooting a look at Serenity who knew her feelings.

 

When she looked over her shoulder to see where the group was headed, she noticed Ron craning his neck to look back at Hermione, who hadn’t even noticed them pass.  

 

 

After dinner that evening, Hermione and Evelyn sat on the couch in the Gryffindor common room reading. Well, Evelyn was reading.

 

Every time she looked up, Hermione was gazing off into the distance with a smile on her face. The fire added to the warmth of her expression, making her look happier than she had in ages. Every time she caught Evelyn staring at her, she would try to drop her smile and fail. Then Evelyn would giggle, and Hermione would ask in a protesting tone, “What?” and that would make Evelyn giggle even more.

 

“Nothing, nothing,” Evelyn would return, and she’d go back to her reading—only to repeat the cycle a few minutes later when Evelyn’s eyes lifted from the pages of her book again.

 

Finally, Evelyn broke the cycle by replying to Hermione’s protests with her honest answer, “It’s just nice to see you look so happy. Something on your mind?”

 

Hermione’s grin spread, but she shook her head, attempting to insist that there was nothing on her mind except her Defense Against the Dark Arts reading.

 

“Oh? That’s surprising—since you’ve been on the same page for the last half hour. I assumed you’d been busy thinking of a certain young Ravenclaw who took up most of your afternoon.”

 

Hermione began to stumble over another protest, but her words fell flat and her smile only seemed to increase. Instead, Evelyn supplied the next complete thought, asking, “Do you want to tell me everything? I mean, how’d this even happen! I demand details.”

 

Hermione looked around the mostly empty common room to ensure they wouldn’t be overheard before snapping her book shut, and shifting down the couch towards Evelyn. She had never truly had a female confidant before and, thus, had an almost eager look on her face as she began to recount the day to Evelyn. In conclusion, she said breathlessly, “I’m not even sure I would call it a date—we bought potion supplies and had drinks with you and Serenity—but he called it a date when we were saying our goodbyes in the entrance hall, and it nearly knocked me over. I didn’t think he’d be interested in me.”

 

“Why wouldn’t he be?!”

 

“Well, we’ve spent plenty of time together in the library the last few weeks, and I’ve never gotten the hint that he was interested in me more than he was in you or Serenity.”

 

“Serenity said that’s his normal behavior, actually. He plays it cool.”

 

“Did she say anything else?” Hermione tilted her head towards Evelyn in an earnest way, as if she was trying to telepathically incline Evelyn to be honest with her.

 

Evelyn laughed, nodding and saying, “She said that she thought Christian’s always had a thing for you.”

 

That left Hermione shocked, which made Evelyn laugh even more. The conversation turned into a riot after that, because Hermione insisted what Serenity had said couldn’t be true and demanded reassurance from Evelyn multiple times. They were so involved in the cycle that they didn’t notice Harry and Ron enter the common room, and approach the couch to learn what had the girls so wound up.

 

Upon apprehending the topic at hand, Ron scoffed and crossed his arms, interjecting, “Hermione’s right, you know—it couldn’t be true. Those Ravenclaws are just taking the piss out of you.”

 

Evelyn’s eyes narrowed as they landed on Ron, and both girls immediately stopped their conversing in favor of staring gobsmacked at the two boys, who had sidled up to the back of the couch so that they cast shadows over them.

 

“Serenity wouldn’t lie to me, Ronald.” Evelyn was the first to reply, though she wasn’t entirely satisfied with the comeback. It didn’t have nearly as much bite as she wanted, particularly after she had registered the dejected look that had settled on Hermione’s face. She added, “You’d know that if you untangled yourself from Lavender long enough to be present.”

 

“Don’t bring Lavender into this.” Ron said moodily, “We’re not talking about her. We’re talking about some Ravenclaws who are just using Hermione to get close to Harry. And she refuses to see it! It’s pathetic.”

 

Hermione’s dejection was quickly converting into anger and she finally got out, “Is it that unbelievable that a man might be interested in me? Interested enough to actually do something about it?”

 

“Interested!” He scoffed, incredulous and Harry braved a knowing glance to Evelyn as they each leaned away from the quickly escalating argument.

 

“I thought you would have learned your lesson after the Yule Ball.” Hermione added, pushing away from the back of the couch with a scowl. It was clear that one of two things was happening: Hermione was either attempting to put as much room between herself and Ron, or she was preparing for a fight. Evelyn could see her finger her wand, and worried for a moment that it might be the latter. She pulled out her own wand, just to be safe.

 

“Learned my lesson! What lesson?” Ron looked incredulous, and without knowing the reference Evelyn could tell that Hermione had hit a mark.

 

“You know exactly what lesson!” Hermione was fuming and loud. A set of first-years nearby watched the pair with saucer-sized eyes.

 

Ron scoffed again and rolled his eyes, “Lower your voice. You sound crazy.”

 

That seemed to be Hermione’s trigger, and all she could get out was “Crazy!” before drawing her wand and leveling it at Ron. Ron’s response was to bolt towards the staircase, deftly dodging her spell and looking at her wild eyed as he called from three steps up, “You bloody act crazy, too!”

 

Harry was left looking torn between his two friends until Evelyn motioned for him to follow Ron up the stairs, trying to tell him with her eyes that she could take care of Hermione. His mouth was set in a grim line and he nodded with determination, giving Hermione a pitying glance before moving deftly up the stairs and out of sight. When Evelyn turned her eyes from the boys’ staircase to her friend, she was confronted with a fuming Hermione who had sunk back into the couch. It was clear that she was trying to stop herself from crying, and she was flushed with anger. When she finally got her sentence out, it was a fragmented and stuttering, “He-he is such a prat.”

 

Evelyn nodded, “It’s not fair he called you crazy, especially when he's clearly the crazy one .”

 

“He always does this! He’s jealous and childish and-and a prat!”

 

“And a bit of a pansy, right? Did you see how quickly he ran away?” Evelyn said, trying to get a giggle out of Hermione and leaning forward on the couch to wrap an arm around her. Hermione glowered, nodding energetically and launching into a rant while Evelyn put on her most sympathetic face—repressing, with some success, the part of her that wanted to laugh at the absurdity of Ron’s reaction to a harmless jaunt around Hogsmeade and the other, angrier part of her, that wanted to charge up the stairs and give him a piece of her mind.  

 


 

 

When Harry returned to the common room a couple hours later, it was mostly deserted. Recently his dreams had been on the uptick, and he wasn’t ready to turn in just then. He preferred to take up a spot on the couch downstairs and think.

 

He halted briefly on the stairs, noticing that someone already occupied the couch, his eyes landing on a body stretched out and facing the fire, away from the staircase. In the firelight, the curls looked soft and the body curved towards him. The shape was a dead giveaway.

 

“Hey,” she said softly, greeting him as he neared the hearth. She didn’t invite any conversation, but she sat up on the couch and tucked her legs under her body to give him room on the couch. Her eyes returned quickly to her Defense Against the Dark Arts text, the same book that he was carrying under his arm. He wondered briefly if she was upset with him because of what had happened between Ron and Hermione. Girls often found strength in numbers, he knew. He took a seat in a nearby armchair, instead of the vacated spot on the couch, and opened his book.

 

He found quickly, however, that he couldn’t keep his eyes on his book. He was repeatedly distracted with thoughts of the girl curled up on the couch before him. He had to admit that she had, ever since her arrival, been intriguing to him. Since her memories had returned, she was even more fascinating—and he found himself wondering why the guys at Hogwarts didn’t seem more interested in her. She was smart, brilliant even, and funny. She was beautiful.

 

If she had shown even the slightest interest in him over the Christmas holiday, he would have pursued her himself. He had thought, briefly, that she was interested, but then she had gone to Maryland and hadn’t written. She had spent a week with her ex-boyfriend, and he had a sinking feeling that something had happened between them. Since she had returned, she had been aloof. More than once, he had seen her writing letters addressed to Maryland and he had seen her carrying a set of Valentine’s cards. Maybe they were trying to make a go of the long-distance thing. For some reason, he hated the idea of that.

 

He wanted to ask, but they rarely had a moment together anymore. She was evasive about her schedule, insisting she didn’t have time to duel and spending most of her time in the library, guarded by Hermione and Serenity. He wished he had just a moment alone with her to dig past whatever barrier she had constructed between them—and to understand why it was there in the first place. He dropped his eyes back onto the pages of his book, wondering if this was his chance to say something. His eyes were returned to Evelyn again as she read without distraction.

 

After a few minutes, a voice came from behind the Defense text. “Something on your mind, Harry Potter?”

 

He smiled, looking down at unfamiliar words on the page that he hadn’t been reading before looking back up at the couch. His eyes met hers immediately, as she had lowered her book, her finger holding her place on the page. He couldn’t help but watch intently as she leaned towards him a little, a curtain of curls sliding over her shoulder.

 

“Worried about Hermione?” Evelyn prompted, and Harry allowed himself to be confused for a moment. All thoughts of the dispute between his friends had been forgotten, but her prompting brought it back and he decided it was a safer topic than what had been on his mind.

 

“I don’t usually worry about Hermione—she’s the strongest person I know.”

 

“You’re right, she’s tough. I can’t blame her for getting frustrated though.”

 

Harry nodded, “It wasn’t Ron’s best moment, was it?”

 

“No,” she conceded, smiling. She had a nice smile. “How is the prat?”

 

“He closed the curtains on his bed when he realized I wasn’t going to agree with him. I think he’ll be fine by breakfast time.”

 

Evelyn paused for a moment before saying, hesitantly, “I didn’t think he could get so jealous.”

 

“Of course he could get that jealous,” Harry laughed a bit, “He’s going crazy not being with her.”

 

“That must be hyperbole. He has a girlfriend!” She exclaimed.

 

“It’s difficult to explain.” Harry trailed off, adding, “Sometimes you’re ready for something more, but the person you want isn’t. Or they’re just not interested. Then someone else comes along who is ready and interested, and they’re nice enough. Like you enough. And... You just... Take what you can get.”

 

His sentences petered out, his voice scratching and then dying in his throat. He looked down at his book, a little embarrassed. He didn’t know if that was the case with Ron and Lavendar, or if he was just projecting. He understood exactly why it drove Ron insane that Hermione might be considering pursuing a relationship with Christian Graves because it was how he felt about Evelyn and that guy in America. He was realizing with increasing despair that—despite having told Ron only a few hours ago that he was acting ridiculous—he saw too clearly Ron’s rationale. This sudden clarity worried him. Was he at risk of being as transparent as Ron? Would Evelyn soon be in the common room comparing stories with Hermione?

 

“If he would just be a little patient, or even just a little forthcoming, he wouldn’t be in this situation though.” Evelyn responded, “Anger isn’t a clear indication of affection, you know?”

 

Harry nodded, smiling. “Hasn’t he tried everything else though? Time alone together, trying things she likes, defending her—even dueling with her. If she can’t see it now, when will she?”

 

Harry studied her in the firelight for a moment, and willed her to know he wasn’t talking about Ron and Hermione anymore.

 

“Maybe she sees it. Maybe she’s just scared.”

 

“Maybe.”



Chapter 35: March
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

On Friday, February 28th, Evelyn finally found herself in the headmaster’s office. On a spare chair, she had piled several heavy texts from the library on Greek mythology. She kept diverted her eyes to the pile, feeling anxious despite her preparation. She knew that if the headmaster had any questions regarding her sources, she could immediately find the right passage in the right text that would assuage his doubts or concerns. Unnervingly, the headmaster didn’t seem to have any questions.

 

When Evelyn had arrived, she had made brief small talk with the headmaster about her courses and her aunts. Dumbledore had watched her with eyes that twinkled behind his half-moon spectacles, his elbows resting on his large desk and his hands folded patiently in front of him. He had an air about him that suggested they were meeting for tea and exchanging friendly pleasantries, rather than preparing to discuss a prophecy that purported to outline her life expectancy.

 

She wasn’t able to sustain the airs, and found herself interjecting bossily, “Professor, I’ve done a lot of research since the start of term—and I’m really concerned.”

 

The Headmaster smiled. “Indeed. What concerns you exactly, Evelyn?”

 

Her books would be no use to her, she realized, as she tried to cobble together her feelings in a cohesive way.

 

“I—I’m worried I’m the weak one,” she finally managed, “It’s plain as day, one of us will have to kill the other. Elizabeth knows it, and I think she could do it.” She paused again, looking down at her hands. “I know she could do it.”

 

The corners of Professor Dumbledore's lips were grimly inverted, and he lowered his hands away from his face. The twinkle was gone from his eyes. “I agree that Elizabeth is prepared to kill you, just as Lord Voldemort is prepared to kill anyone who stands in his way, but I do not believe that means you are weak.”

 

Evelyn’s stomach twisted bitterly, and she felt hot under her uniform collar. “How could it not? She’s going to win—and what could that mean? For the war? If she—”

 

Evelyn’s voice became increasingly high and her breath was short as the anxiety she’d buried inside her began to spill out. Over the course of all her research, she’d wondered again and again: which one was she, and how might it matter? Now, she’d articulated her worst fear: Helen or Clytemnestra, it didn’t matter. She was weak, and she would die.

 

The Headmaster interrupted her. “Though Elizabeth might be willing to kill you, that does not mean she will be successful. You are not weak, Evelyn. I know you have been training with Mr. Potter, studying with Miss Granger and Miss Savior. I can tell even now that you’re not resigned to your fate. You’ll put up a good fight, won’t you?”

 

“Of course,” Evelyn said softly. Her voice was trembling, and she diverted her eyes again to the useless pile of books that she’d thrown herself into over the last few weeks.

 

“I fear you’ve spent the weeks in my absence fretting over this prophecy,” Dumbledore frowned again, and she nearly blanched. It felt like he could read her mind.

 

Dumbledore paused meaningfully, then said, “Prophecies are never certain. In many cases, they never come to pass—because the players choose not to act. This prophecy is an exception to that rule because Lord Voldemort will encourage action. He won’t be able to restrain himself. He will force your sister’s hand. But, when she acts, she will act with hubris, like her Master she will be consumed with the desire for power, and she will be misguided. This is your advantage, Evelyn—and it does not make you weak.”

 

“That doesn’t feel like much of an advantage,” Evelyn said sourly.

 

Dumbledore smiled, paused, and then said decidedly, “Leave your books and your notes with me. I can review them, and we can meet again.”

 

She stood, gathering the books in her arms. Professor Dumbledore stood too, took the books from her. Then, he asked, “Have you told anyone about the prophecy, Evelyn?”

 

“No, professor. I haven’t—I didn’t want to.”

 

“That’s probably best, for now of course.” His eyes were twinkling again. He placed the books on his desk, adding, “I’ll send a note when I’ve gotten through everything. It may be a few weeks—your research was extensive.”

 

She smiled a forced, little smile then gathered her things, moving towards the door. Before she left, she turned and asked one more question. “Professor, when you heard the prophecy—was there something in it that surprised you?”

 

“There is nothing here that surprised me, Miss Castell, but there are implications that frighten me.”  

 


 

Evelyn felt exhausted by the time she arrived back at Gryffindor Tower, and she cast tight smile at Hermione, who was working alone at the table near the window, before going directly up the staircase to the girls’ dormitory.

 

Hermione followed her up a few moments later, an essay rolled under her arm with her Arithmancy book. She looked as though she wanted to ask a question, but Evelyn beat her to it, asking, “Did you finish the essay on the Chaldean method?”

 

“I did,” She said, tucking a wild strand of hair behind her ear before depositing her homework on her bed. “Did you want to see the notes?”

 

“No, I finished it earlier this afternoon—thanks though.” Evelyn smiled, knowing what was coming next from Hermione and readying herself for it. She shrugged off her cloak and sank into her bed, kicking her shoes off and bringing her feet up under her. Dumbledore had said it was best to keep the prophecy to herself, but she didn’t think she needed to hide her meetings from Hermione. Harry didn’t, she knew.

 

“Where did you disappear to after dinner?”

 

“I had a meeting with the Headmaster.”

 

Hermione’s eyes scanned Evelyn’s face, as if she were searching for hidden clues. Evelyn thought that Hermione would assume it had something to do with her returning memories, which wasn’t too far off the mark, but instead Hermione asked, “Does it have something to do with those Greek books you’ve been borrowing from the library? The ones you’ve been reading in the dark every night after you think everyone is asleep.”

 

Evelyn couldn’t help herself—she let out a surprised laugh. She should have known Hermione would have picked up on her actions, even when she was attempting to be discrete. In fact, she was beginning to think that the more furtive she acted, the more likely it was that Hermione was paying attention.

 

“Yes,” She admitted, because it was easier than anything else. “It’s about the books.”

 

“But you can’t tell me more?”

 

“I can’t,” Evelyn confirmed, happy that the dorm was empty just then. “But I will. I want to tell you. I really do.”

 

“And you’ll tell me when you can?”

 

“Yes,” Evelyn confirmed again. “I have every intention to, but you have to promise to stop guessing—I can see your wheels turning.”

 

Hermione smirked and conceded.  

 


 

Evelyn and Serenity had agreed to spend the first day of March productively. After lunch, they settled into their table at the library and began to work through the large pile of homework that had accumulated over the course of the last week. Each periodically grumbled to the other, but they tried their best to stay focused. Hermione had promised to join them at some point, and they knew when she arrived that they would most likely spend some time chatting on various tangents.

 

However, Hermione didn’t look ready to chat when she arrived. Instead, she looked panicked and white faced. Her bag was sliding off of her shoulder, pulling at the clasp of her cloak, and she wrung her hands impatiently. When her eyes landed on the girls, hunched over their parchment at their table, she quickened her pace.

 

“Hermione, are you okay?” Evelyn asked as she set down her quill in anticipation. “Is everything okay?”

 

She reached the table, and immediately put her hands on the surface as if she needed physical contact to steady herself. “It’s Ron,” she said, her words coming out sharply between gasps of air. She must have been running before she came through the library doors. “He’s been poisoned.”

 

Evelyn had seen Hermione dominate a classroom, insert herself, interrogate, and investigate—but she hadn’t seen her face something beyond her control. Her friend’s whole demeanor seemed bent at an unfamiliar angle. She looked at Evelyn with imploring eyes, her breath hiccuping as she tried to catch it.

 

“What can we do?” Evelyn asked quickly, taking Hermione’s hand in her own and standing up from her chair. “Do you want to go to the hospital wing?”

 

“Yes, I was on my way there actually. I just—I wanted—to tell you,” she looked almost mournfully at Evelyn and then at Serenity. “Harry’s there... I need to be there. With them.”

 

Evelyn felt the word that Hermione left off: alone. She wanted to be with them alone. Harry and Ron were her best friends, her oldest friends. And, in that moment, she needed to be with them regardless of everything that had transpired that year. Evelyn nodded, “Of course. We’ll walk you there, okay?”

 

Serenity agreed, gathering her things and turning down the gas lamp at their table. They moved quickly through the stacks, knowing the way without needing to think about it. Evelyn walked on Hermione’s right and Serenity on her left, flanking her protectively. Every student they passed was eyed carefully; as far as they knew, no culprit had been identified. Evelyn couldn’t guess why any student would target Ron of all people, but she feared that if they had done so deliberately than they probably had their eye on Harry and Hermione as well.

 

When they turned the corner that led to the hospital wing, they could see Harry waiting near the double doors. Evelyn halted, turning to Hermione. She grabbed both her hands, and said, “Harry’s there, waiting by the doors. Go on ahead, and we’ll wait for you in the common room.”

 

“Alright,” Hermione said, turning her eyes to Harry, who seemed small waiting beside the large doors at the end of the hall. She didn’t move. Instead, she looked back at Evelyn with uncertainty.

 

“It’ll be okay, Hermione. I’m sure of it. You just have to go in there, learn what happened, and be there to make sure Ron doesn’t develop more of a complex than he already has.”

 

Hermione smiled tightly and nodded. “True,” she admitted. She looked over her shoulder to Serenity, who looked less convinced but tried to contort her face into a more reassuring expression.

 

“If you need me, just send me your Patronus. I’ll come right away.”

 

Hermione nodded again. Then, she turned and began to walk the remaining length of the corridor. Harry watched her come, a stony expression on his face. His eyes broke from Hermione for only a moment, casting that same stoney gaze on Evelyn. He looked hollow in that moment, and Evelyn could feel her heart shake in her chest.

 

“Think they’ll be okay?” Serenity asked after Hermione reached Harry, and they disappeared through the hospital wing doors together.

 

“I think they’re known for being okay.”  

 

 

Evelyn and Serenity spent the rest of the evening in the Gryffindor common room, waiting to see if Hermione would return with news and attempting to get some additional work done. Unfortunately, every time the portrait hole opened their eyes would fly to the entrance—only to be disappointed by a set of first years wandering in from the library or a group of fifth years with melting snowflakes in their hair. It was well past curfew when Serenity finally decided to leave, rationalizing that it was probably best she went and told Christian what had happened. Evelyn agreed, wondering briefly what Christian would think of Hermione’s need to be at Ron’s bedside. She could tell the thought had passed through Serenity’s mind as well as she collected her books and her unfinished essay.

 

Evelyn spent another half hour working towards the conclusion of her essay before packing up and heading to her room. The curtains were pulled around all of the other girls’ beds, with the exception of Hermione’s, and most of the lights had been turned down low. She went about her bedtime routine as quietly as possible, and every few minutes she turned her eyes anxiously towards the door. Still no Hermione appeared.  

 

Evelyn lit the end of her wand, and moved under her blankets with a book in hand hoping to buy herself a little more time. She was too anxious to be tired, and she didn’t want to go to bed without at least knowing Hermione had come back. She couldn’t focus on her book however. The hollow look in Harry’s eyes came back to her again and again in the dark room, shifting her focus from the lines on the page.

 

She could remember only one other time she’d been haunted by a look like that from him. The memory came to her easily. They had been practicing dueling in the Room of Requirement, shortly after Evelyn had been released from the hospital after her remembering. Part of the reason she remembered the day was because a round of particularly horrific memories from Elizabeth had preceded it and she’d nearly canceled on Harry. She had arrived late to meet him, still angry and exhausted. 

 

She was made angrier when she realized her pacing was off, and she started making stupid mistakes. Her defensive spells were sloppy—and Harry took advantage of it, shattering her shield. She was on her back, disarmed, before she knew it. Harry had come over, extending his arm to her and then nearly recoiling when he saw the glare directed at him.

 

“You okay?” He’d started, looking hesitant. He conjured top glasses and a pitcher of water, which he filled with water from his wand.

 

“I’m fine,” she’d snapped, taking the glass from him with the ungratefulness of a petulant child.

 

They were quiet for a moment, sitting on the floor sipping their water. Then, she’d felt the tension relax out of her shoulders and the anger in her body started to dissipate. Exhaustion filled the space that remained, and she felt embarrassed by how she was acting. She dropped her head, rubbing her temples. Without looking at him, she muttered, “I’m sorry. It’s just been a rough couple of days—”

 

She cut herself short, staring at the floor for a beat. She didn’t want to look at him when she said the next part. She didn’t want him to think she was weird or broken. Even in her recollection of the memory, separated by the moment by months, she felt the same.

 

“It’s just exhausting having someone else’s emotions forced inside you. Information you don’t want. Hurtful—hateful stuff.” Evelyn had held back angry tears, surprised she’d acknowledged what was bothering her out loud. Feeling self-conscious, she added, “I probably sound crazy.”

 

When Harry hadn’t respond after a few moments, she had worked up the nerve to look at him and started to stumble over an apology. Where she’d expected judgment, disbelief, or even confusion, she had found that hollow-eyed look.

 

She had stopped mid-apology, stunned at his expression. He looked as if she’d reached into him and had taken ahold of his soul. His usually vibrant green gaze had seemed muted, and his lips had parted. Her reaction must have woken something up in him, because something seemed to roar back to life behind his eyes and he said hoarsely, “I know. I know exactly what that’s like.”

 

As she reworked the moment in her mind again and again, she stared at the book in her hands and tried to remember if Harry had ever explained why he knew what that was like. At the time, and even now, it felt like a totally novel experience, but she wondered if it was wrapped up in these things—these Voldemort things—that he kept quiet about.

 

 

Eventually, she thought it would be wise to go to sleep and muttered, “Nox,” as she shut her book. It was just then, when she’d given up hope of seeing Hermione before morning, that the door creaked open. There she stood, searching the dark from the doorway.

 

Evelyn shot back up, immediately opening her mouth to greet her friend. Hermione, however, cut her off with a hand gesture that seemed to suggest she wanted her to come out of the dorm. Evelyn complied, grabbing her robe and stepping into a pair of slippers on her way to the door.

 

“What happened?” She asked as she stepped into the hall, her tone urgent but hushed.

 

“Come downstairs with me. I don’t want the other girls to overhear.” Hermione replied, heading for the stairwell without waiting for a reply.

 

As soon as they set foot in the common room, Evelyn asked, “Is Ron okay?”

 

Instead of replying immediately, Hermione drew her wand and waved it across the expanse of the empty common room. It was clear that she had cast a nonverbal spell, but nothing happened. She paused, looking from corner to corner. “Okay, we’re alone.” She gestured towards the couch, and they both eagerly took seats. They were facing one another, and Evelyn was leaning towards her friend attentively. She started without being prompted again, “Ron is still recovering.”

 

Evelyn could immediately feel herself relax, and she reached for Hermione’s hands, which sat in a knot on top of her lap. Hermione continued, “He was asleep when I left. Harry was with him when it happened.”

 

“Harry’s okay though?”

 

“Yes, of course. He’s been needing to speak with Slughorn to-to get something,” Hermione paused, looking from the fire to Evelyn.

 

“Do you know if he got what he needed?”  

 

“I’m not sure,” Hermione admitted, looking mildly concerned. Evelyn wasn’t sure if it was concern for Ron or Harry.  

 

“What did Madame Pomfrey say about Ron? Does she expect a full recovery?”

 

“Yes, due to Harry no less. He gave Ron a bezoar stone once he realized he’d been poisoned! She was quite impressed with him, all the professors were.”

 

“Do you think Ron was being targeted?”

 

“No, actually. The boys were with Slughorn when it happened. He opened up a bottle of mead—and that’s what Ron drank. That’s what was poisoned.”

 

Evelyn bit her lip nervously, pondering the situation. “Do you think Slughorn is involved somehow?”

 

“No,” Hermione shook her head, “But something is going on.”

 

“First Katie, now Ron,” Evelyn nodded, “Two Gryffindors targeted with potentially fatal consequences... It could be related.”

 

“That was my thinking as well,” Hermione said softly, her eyes drifting back to the fire. “Of course, Harry suspects Malfoy.”

 

“If he’s right, then I would bet Elizabeth is involved, too.”

 

It was Hermione’s turn to look shocked. “Really?”

 

“She stayed with the Malfoys over the Christmas holiday. They’re friendly, maybe even dating—if you believe the rumors. And, she was always a decent hand at potions. She knows her poisons.”

 

“Malfoy has always been a strong student, too, but he’s been distracted this semester. Harry thinks he’s been marked, you know, but it would be unprecedented. He’s so young. But, do you really think, the two of them could be targeting students for Voldemort?”

 

Evelyn nodded gravely, feeling colder now then she had before. As Helen did Troy came to her then, unprompted, and she felt a creeping feeling down her spine, as if she’d just been disillusioned. She allowed Hermione to turn the conversation back to Ron, who was predicted to need a few days in the hospital wing to fully recover, but she anticipated he would be mostly healed the following day. She planned to go back for a visit, and Evelyn agreed to accompany her.

 

“Oh, I nearly forgot, “ Hermione changed subjects abruptly, a lightness coming over her features. “Something else happened!”

 

“What?” Evelyn exclaimed, noticing the glee in Hermione’s voice, “Have you been holding out on me, Granger?”

 

“I haven’t been holding out on you. We’ve been discussing more important topics,” She said seriously, but then a smile broke across her face, “But I’d be remiss if I didn’t share the fun bit! Ron said my name—in his sleep!”

 

“What!?” Evelyn exclaimed, her spine straightening so quickly that she nearly toppled over.

 

Hermione laughed, the serious lines of her forehead disappearing for the first time that evening. “We were all there—Harry, Ginny, Fred, George, and me—and when I spoke, he said my name—in his sleep.”

 

Evelyn’s eyes widened, and her mind began to race, trying to make sense of what it could mean. “He heard your voice, and then he said your name? While he was unconscious?”

 

“Yeah, it was so strange. We’ve barely talked these last few months.”

 

Even in the firelight, Evelyn could tell her friend was blushing. She said, in an amazed tone, “It’s like he knew you were there—or he wanted you there.”

 

“I don’t want to read too much into it, he probably won’t even remember,” Hermione said, her blush beginning to fade.

 

“Yeah, it seems unlikely that after months and years of being in love with you that his unconscious would finally reveal that in a moment of weakness...”

 

Evelyn let her quip trail off, watching Hermione’s face shift into full-on embarrassment, before she started laughing. Once she started she had a hard time starting, and eventually Hermione joined in, the blush on her cheek from her laughter rather than her embarrassment.

 

When their laughter finally subsided, they both wiped tears from their eyes and Evelyn let out a happy exhale. Then she asked the question she was most curious to know the answer to, “So—what about this thing with Christian?”

 

“What thing? There’s no thing with Christian.” Hermione looked perplexed, but she wore a smile.

 

“It looked like a thing after Hogsmeade! And Serenity was going to update him about Ron. I hope that’s okay, but she knew he’d be worried she hadn’t gone back to their tower all day.”

 

“I think we can trust Christian and Serenity to be discrete. Plus it’s bound to be all over the school in a day or two. You know how it is.” Hermione shrugged. The fire was starting to die, and long shadows danced across her friend’s amused expression.

 

“You dropped the part about your thing with Christian.” Evelyn chided, adding before Hermione could object, “Which was totally a thing. Even if neither of you wants to admit it.”

 

Hermione let out a brief, wry laugh and let herself sink deeper into the couch. “If it’s a thing, it’ll figure itself out. I can’t devote too much energy to it right now. There’s too much going on.”

 

Evelyn cast her eyes to a nearby table where the headlines were winding around the fold of a discarded Prophet. Today’s paper had contained a list of witches and wizards who had been murdered, tortured, or disappeared. It was becoming a disturbingly common feature in the paper. With a grim sort of smile, Evelyn nodded, understanding completely.  

 

 

The next morning, Evelyn and Hermione went to the Hospital Wing after having breakfast with Serenity and Christian at the Ravenclaw table. They were still chatting animatedly when they entered, Hermione leading them to the back of the wing where she knew Ron to be. Evelyn noticed Harry and Ginny talking quietly in chairs placed near Ron’s bedside, and Ron’s head tilted to face them, his eyes closed and his lips parted slightly as he slept.

 

Harry noticed them, and a smile split across his face. “It’s not her.” He said gruffly.

 

Ron’s eyes flew open, taking in Hermione and then Evelyn. He looked relieved, and he said as much. “Avoiding a particular Gryffindor, Ronald?” Evelyn asked, crossing her arms as she took a seat on the opposite side of the bed from Harry and Ginny.

 

He grumbled noncommittally, and pushed up his pillows so that he was sitting up in the bed.

 

“You’re looking better today.” Hermione said simply, still glowing from a breakfast that had been comprised of some backhanded flirtations and a handful of compliments from a very self-assured Ravenclaw.

 

Ron seemed to respond to her mood, smiling himself and nodding. “I slept well. I’d actually like to get out of here, but I don’t think it’ll happen.”

 

Harry nodded along, adding, “Madame Pomfrey has been trying to figure out what Ron was poisoned with, and she doesn’t want to release him until she figures it out. Worried about belated side effects.”

 

“I think she’s just trying to keep me until after the Quidditch game. I think she must have been a Hufflepuff herself, you know,” Ron grumbled, muttering about bias. Hufflepuff would be the team that Gryffindor faced in the coming weekend’s game.

 

“I’m sure she’s got nothing better to do than to sabotoge you, Ron.” Ginny said with snark, rolling her eyes and beaming a smile in Harry’s direction.

 

Harry chuckled, placing his arm around her shoulder and giving her a bit of a squeeze. He then turned back to Ron, saying gently, “We’ll make due with a reserve, Ron. Don’t worry about it.”

 

“Madame Pomfrey has good reasons for keeping you. It is actually important to know what you were poisoned with—she’s right, you know? There could be latent side effects, even with Harry’s quick thinking.” Evelyn said evenly, focusing on Ron and ignoring Harry and Ginny.

 

They allowed the conversation to turn to lighter things, distracting Ron from the unknown duration of his stay and the upcoming game. Their visit lasted almost an hour before Hermione and Evelyn departed for the library, where they spent the rest of the Sunday afternoon working through their pile of homework and setting aside books to take to Ron so that he could keep up with assignments.

 


 

Harry sat back, listening as Ginny and Ron continued to chat. They had circled back to Quidditch, and Ron continued to grumble about missing the game. He felt that he could play—and he wanted to play. Ginny was trying to reason with him, and as she was doing it with mild success, Harry felt it was okay to tune out for a few moments.

 

His eyes settled on the chairs across from him, which had been vacant for some time now and reminded him of the girls who had occupied them.

 

He had realized over the last few months that he didn’t understand Evelyn. Something had obviously happened over the winter holiday, and it twisted him up to not know. Hermione has mentioned she’d been to see Dumbledore, but when Harry was the Headmaster he wouldn’t divulge anything and made it seem as though everything was normal. Yet, since Evelyn’s return, she had avoided him—finding a reason to move out of the room whenever he entered, going to her classes early to avoid the walk together, eating with the Ravenclaws, and working in the library instead of the common room.

 

She had even made up excuses to minimize their dueling sessions, which was particularly infuriating. He missed the practice. And, if he was honest with himself, he missed the proximity to her. The only session he had managed to squeeze out of her had ended so strangely. He wasn’t yet able to wrap his mind around it, and he had refused to divulge any of the details to Hermione or Ron. Whenever Harry looked at Hermione now, he felt as though there was something unsaid between them, as if she knew something that was glaringly obvious, but she didn’t have the heart to tell him. There were walls going up between him and the girls, and he wasn’t sure how to take them down.

 

He didn’t understand.

 

Just then, Ginny shifted her hand to his knee and gave it a gentle squeeze, distracting him from his thoughts and smiling at him. She gave him a look, which he felt was suggesting they should leave soon. She needed more attention than he had assumed she would, and he felt she probably wanted to get away to steal a few kisses in the hallway or to run her fingers through his hair. She stole moments like these with him in a way that was sometimes possessive, but endearing, too.

 

He looked back, giving a slight nod, and Ginny felt empowered to begin to shift the conversation. She was making closing remarks to Ron, who didn’t immediately notice. Harry’s thoughts drifted again, back to Evelyn.

 

She had looked beautiful that afternoon. The light in the Hospital Wing was bright—nearly springlike—and it had made her hair and her eyes noticeably shine. The skies were overcast, but bright and he wondered if the weather would turn soon. She’d like to grounds, he knew. She hadn’t had much of a chance to enjoy them when she’d first arrived, as she’d been so packed away by the Amnesia Charm. It’d be different now, and he was looking forward to the hours they could spend outside with their friends.

 

If she stops avoiding me, he thought. He frowned to himself.

 

Ginny caught his attention again, and he felt a surge of foolishness rise in his stomach. Of course it wouldn’t be, he thought again, I have Ginny.

 

He forced his smile away. He had Ginny. He liked Ginny.

 

She stood, and he followed, robotically farewelling his friend. Ron didn’t notice Harry’s distracted behavior, as he was busy grumbling about his stay in the hospital wing again. As soon as they were in the hall, Ginny moved against him, purring something that he half-heard and placing an eager kiss on his collarbone. He smiled, but he couldn’t seem to focus on her.

 

Ginny led him back towards the common room. She held his hand so tightly that his knuckles felt buckled against one another. She was authoritative and charming, and usually he liked to have her take over for a few moments—to relinquish control in just one arena of his life, whereas all the other aspects of his life demanded so much of his energy and focus, so much of decision-making capacity—but at that moment, something didn’t feel right.

 

What it came down to, he was realizing, was that he couldn’t get Ginny to stick in his head. Evelyn was always there, taking up more room than she should. Or at least, he thought that must be true. He should have been consumed with Ginny, the way she seemed to be consumed with him.

 

But they’re just thoughts, he reasoned, trying to shake himself back to the present. Just thinking about Evelyn isn’t a crime.

 

He was still trying to convince himself that was true as he followed Ginny into his dorm room, and the door snapped shut behind them.



Chapter 36: I Know Why
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Later that week, Evelyn found herself alone in the castle with a letter to reply to and little else to occupy her time. She had been working so efficiently with Serenity and Hermione recently that they had managed to complete all of their assignments for the week thus far. Realizing their work was essentially done until the following day, Serenity had decided to turn in to Ravenclaw Tower in an attempt to catch up on a few hours of sleep while Hermione had lingered in the library with Christian.

 

Evelyn was operating so efficiently that she had even made time to stop by the Hospital Wing with recent homework assignments for Ron. That afternoon, however, Lavender had been visiting as well and Ron was conveniently asleep when she arrived—so she wasn’t even able to occupy herself with a game of Wizarding Chess.

 

This was perhaps the first time since classes had begun that absolutely nothing was required of her. Dinner would be on in an hour or so, and Evelyn didn’t want to go all the way back to Gryffindor Tower just to have to come back down for the meal. Instead, she decided to take a seat on a windowsill, which was deep enough that she could rest her legs comfortably across the sill with her back against the stone. It was still bright enough outside that she could see across the grounds, and the spot afforded her a view of the lake. The shores were still snowy, though dark streaks of mud could be seen pushing their way through the white. The lake had warmed in the center, and she could see the giant squid peak out periodically, a tentacle rising at one point to shift some of the ice remnants out of its way.

 

It was a perfectly fine spot to read and respond to her letter.  

 

She pulled it out of her bag, unfolding it carefully. It had arrived that morning, and she had already read through it once. She smiled as she took in his words again:

 

Evie,

 

Lacey is beginning to think you prefer writing me instead of her. She claims that I’ve received three letters in the time that she’s received one—and you know how furiously jealous she can be. (And yes, she is sitting right next to me as I write this.)

 

I’ve told her that I must be a better penpal… or a better friend. She’s threatening my life. Do you think you could make it here in time to save me?

 

Subtle hinting that you should move home.

 

Alright... now for the reply...

 

Have you been practicing your dueling again since it got weird the other day? I assume you’ve been avoiding it. I would be. Knowing you, you won’t want to put yourself in that situation again if you can help it. Or you will want to... Because you’re a stubborn masochist and an advocate of the greater good, a horrible cross when it comes to self-preservation.

 

You can’t tell me that you don’t know what was about to happen that day. You might not want to admit it, and you might not want to make things messy. It might not even make sense to you. But that doesn’t change the facts.

 

I understand your frustration and hesitation.

 

I know why you’re still thinking about him. And, you know why, too. It’s obvious, isn’t it? Things have been left unsaid, undone, and it’s just not like you. You’re much more orderly. You like straight lines. It’ll feel wrong until you figure out how to right it.

 

Sorry if that’s bad news, kid—

 

Theo

 

Evelyn grimaced a bit as she reached the end, fighting the urge to put off the reply. But, she had the time now—and she liked checked boxes almost as much as she liked straight lines. Worse still, she did actually want to reply to Theo, even if she was convincing herself that he couldn't be right.  

 

He’d been her regular correspondent since her initial letter, and had been a pretty good sport about her heartache over Harry. He was a bit taken aback at first, he had admitted. He hadn’t thought their goodbye was as permanent as she made it seem, and he hadn’t suspected that she had feelings for someone else while she was visiting over the holiday. Interestingly, he had added, based on what he knew of the famous Harry Potter, he didn’t think she’d fall for someone so showy.

 

She had laughed aloud reading Theo’s characterization of Harry, knowing it was largely based on the American coverage of the TriWizard Tournament and the slander campaign that had followed the next year, when American officials had aligned their portray of Harry with the British Ministry of Magic. Over the years, Harry’s celebrity had evolved from famous infant to quaffed Gilderoy-Lockhart type to damaged, James-Dean type looking for attention (and maybe a bit crazy). She didn’t take the time to correct Theo’s impression, hoping instead to one day have the opportunity to share it with Harry.

 

Regardless, Theo had attempted to be judicious and fair in his examination of her situation and her recounts of her transactions with Harry (all the while laying out not-so-subtle hints that she should consider moving back to the States after graduation next year). He’d shared her surprise that Harry had picked Ginny, dipping into his recent Wizarding Psychology elective to provide some theories, before concluding that “maybe Harry just wanted to be with someone, and Ginny had her timing right.”

 

Such a stupid reason frustrated Evelyn, who felt that it would have been dramatically easier for everyone involved if Theo had simply insisted she had misread the situation and that the whole affair had been one-sided. If she was being honest, most of Theo’s thoughts on the subject frustrated her—not because he was wrong, but for the exact opposite reason. Because, mostly, he was right. She had reached out to him because he knew her better than anyone else. Even more, he knew what it was like to want her and to be wanted by her. He had engaged in almost every emotion with her, and knew how the slightest modulation in her mood could impact how she acted, why, and when. The added benefit of his male perspective gave him a serious leg up on any advice Hermione or Serenity could have supplied.  

 

Leaning back against the wall, she thought over what she wanted to write back. At the beginning of the term, she had been firmly committed to the idea she had totally misread Harry’s feelings, but after the exchange in the Room of Requirement she found herself oscillating between thinking he didn’t care and thinking he cared too much. She didn’t know why—despite the wasted opportunities, the missed connection, and the reality of his girlfriend—Harry had almost kissed her. She thought back to her last letter to Theo, where she had tried to describe the look on Harry’s face. The corners of his eyes crinkled slightly, his glasses a big smudged from their combat, his lips curved up on the sides, triumphant, as if he was debating between a smile and a joke. He had looked at her like he couldn’t see anything else. If she hadn’t pulled away, then they would have kissed. She could feel the truth of it in her bones, and she knew that Theo was right. She had wanted to kiss him. She still wanted to kiss him.

 

She huffed, allowing herself to resent Theo briefly before pulling out a clean piece of parchment and a quill. She wrote until dinnertime, closing the letter just as the corridors began to fill with students as they made their way towards the Great Hall. As the first few students made their way past her, she hastily shoved the letter into her bag. She wasn’t willing to allow the wandering eye of even a first-year Hufflepuff to glance her letter. After dinner, she would take it to the Owlery—it was too incriminating to hold on to.

 

Once in the Great Hall, she took a seat at the Ravenclaw table next to Serenity, who looked relieved to be joined by her. Hermione and Christian were sitting opposite, and though they kept an open conversation that on the surface seemed to welcome any number of participants, it was clear from their body language that they were entirely absorbed in one another. They sported identical grins, and rarely broke eye contact as they debated the practical uses of dragon blood and theorized on recent topics that Slughorn had covered in potions.

 

Evelyn took one look at them and, though delighted for her friends’ happiness, started on a different topic with Serenity. “You look rested. Glad you got the nap in?”

 

“Very glad,” Serenity said, smiling. “Though I’m sorry that I abandoned you. Did you find something to occupy your time?”

 

“Some letter writing,” Evelyn responded, leaning forward to help herself to some mashed potatoes and green beans. “Theo sent me something this morning, and I thought I’d take the opportunity to write back to him. I don’t think I’ll have a chance—double Transfiguration tomorrow will probably come with double the homework, and then the Quidditch match is this weekend.”

 

“Couldn’t you talk to your aunt about those Transfiguration assignments? She could let up a little, don’t you think?”

 

“It’s funny that you think I have any sway over her at all. If anything, I think she thinks I should be spending more time working on Transfiguration. Not less.”

 

“I was being optimistic,” Serenity said in a deadpan, though her eyes were smiling. She allowed herself to look across the table briefly, her eyes scanning Christian and Hermione, before returning her gaze to Evelyn. Her friend smiled, kind but sympathetic. “Do you think you’ll sit in the Gryffindor section for the game?”

 

“That was my plan! I think Hermione was planning on visiting with Ron before she goes down, so I’m not sure if I’ll go with her or whom I’ll go down with. I’m sure Seamus wouldn’t mind the company, since Dean is playing chaser. Did you want to sit with me?”

 

Serenity looked relieved, taking another bite as she nodded vigorously. “I think that’ll be great. Plus, Seamus is a good time. We’ve done a couple class projects together.”

 

They carried on their conversation, allowing it to move to various topics as they finished their dinner together. Hermione and Christian never seemed to truly notice their presence, and they rose from the table with only a brief goodbye. Serenity wore a mask of indifference as the couple disappeared through the doors, and though her dark eyes sparkled in their usual way, her look was far off, mysterious and reserved, just as it had been when Evelyn was just getting to know her. Though Serenity had opened up considerably since then, she wasn’t one to overindulge in her feelings or to share too much. Evelyn tried to respect that space, just as Serenity had respected hers, and she wanted to wait until her friend confided in her again. Outing her as they left the Great Hall wasn’t the right course of action, so she didn’t ask how Serenity felt and she didn’t tell her what Hermione had said the other night in the common room.

 

Instead, they said their goodbyes in the entrance hall—Serenity, turning towards the Ravenclaw Tower, and Evelyn to the Owlery.

 

As Evelyn walked, she allowed her mind to wander from Serenity to Christian to Hermione. She thought of the all the different ways romantic relationships could impact friendships, and she worried over Serenity’s and Hermione’s happiness. Their friendship was still new, but it was clear that they had respect for one another. Evelyn felt certain that if Serenity had confided her feelings to them directly that Hermione would have never allowed anything to happen with Christian. But Serenity hadn’t, and it wasn’t Evelyn’s place to step in. So instead, Serenity’s shoulders drooped while her best friend and her new friend hit if off. Evie's heart felt heavy with the thought, and she wondered too what would happen if Ron ever worked up the nerve to break up with Lavender.

 

Taking a narrow turn around the corner at the end of the hall, she found herself walking straight into another student. Her head hit their shoulder, causing her to falter and almost fall. She would have if the other student’s arms hadn’t tightened around her, propping her up. As if far away, she registered the sound of the other student exclaiming and the corresponding echo across the hall as Evelyn attempted to gain her bearings. She pulled back, her eyes meeting jade.

 

“Harry!” She exclaimed, steading herself on her feet. “What are you doing here?” Her voice was breathy and high-pitched, and, even though her head was throbbing, she was very aware of his arms around her. She could feel her body relaxing into his embrace, and her own arms curving around his in naturally as he recognized her and returned her smile. His eyes were locked with hers, and she could feel him leaning somewhat closer to her. She wondered briefly if this was his response to her only because she had spent the better part of the last few weeks avoiding him. As Theo had guessed, after their last dueling session, she’d been wary to be alone with him—and had dodged every opportunity he might have had to ask her to practice with him again. She let the thought drift away, willing herself to stay in his arms though she was sure she should have pulled back. Theo’s words started circling in her head, but she actively stuffed them down.

 

“I’m avoiding McLaggen,” Harry answered, a flash of frustration on his face. “He wants to strategize for the match tomorrow.”

 

“Ah, yes,” Evelyn nodded, “I heard him talking in the common room yesterday. He was looking for you, had some big ideas he wanted to share.”

 

“He’s insufferable.” Harry muttered. Then, he asked, “What are you doing here?”

 

“Just on my way to the Owlery. I’ve got a letter to send to Theo.”

 

Harry gave her a strange, frowning look, and she relaxed her grip on him. Leaning away, she brought her hand to her forehead to feel the spot where his shoulder had collided with her head. The spot was tender and she winced, which seemed to inspire concern in Harry.

 

“Are you okay?”

 

“I think so, but I bet I’ll have a weird bruise on my forehead tomorrow. I might have to stop by the hospital wing to see if Madam Pomfrey has any bruise cream stocked.” She paused, feeling her forehead again briefly. It did actually hurt quite a bit. “Your shoulder is like a rock!”

 

“Blame Quidditch, I guess,” he laughed, shrugging. The frown had dissipated. “Your head wasn’t nearly as hard—my shoulder feels fine.”

 

She laughed, “I’m happy for you! Means you’ll be in top shape for the game then—wouldn’t want my fellow Gryffindors resenting me from taking out the star seeker.”

 

“If I’m not in top shape, I can promise it won’t be due to any shoulder injury.” Harry said, a quiet look coming over his face. Evelyn wasn’t exactly sure what he meant by that, but she nodded as if she did. By then, she’d leaned back far enough that Harry had dropped his arms from around her and the moment was gone. They walked together as far as their paths overlapped, Harry keeping an eye out for McLaggen and for Lavender as well, who he explained had repeatedly accosted him because Ron was pretending to sleep whenever she visited.

 

When they reached the hallway leading to their common room, Harry paused. This had been the longest amount of time they had spent alone together since the awkward end of their dueling session, and Evie was sure there was something he wanted to say—but he seemed unable to bring himself to it. She felt relieved, knowing as she stood there looking at him that he couldn’t quite find the words to say whatever was on his mind. After being in his arms, she was worried she wouldn’t be able to say no to any request he might have, and she didn’t want to encourage him. Things were left undone, chances never taken, kisses never stolen. Theo was right, it was driving her crazy, but it was somehow made better, at that moment, by the fact that Harry was struggling with it too.

 

Instead of offering him a kindness or letting him have some time to hash out whatever it was he was thinking through, she said simply, “I’ve got to take this letter up to the Owlery still. I’ll see you around, Harry. If I don’t see you in the morning—good luck.”

 

She walked away, her step brisk. She didn’t look back.  

 


 

“So how’s McLaggen shaping up?” Ron looked at Harry expectantly from his bed, the corners of his mouth turned slightly downward as he fiddled with the edge of his sheet. Harry had come to visit Ron before the match that morning, initially hopeful that Madam Pomfrey would allow him to take Ron to the pitch with him to watch the game. However, the matron had squashed the idea, fearing it would overexcite her patient.

 

Harry feared that staying here would over-agitate Ron, which was much worse in his opinion. He went through the standard response with Ron, reassuring him that McLaggen wouldn’t be stealing his spot on the team and admitting that the reserve keeper had been driving him crazy. Then, almost as an afterthought, he added, “Will you stop pretending to be asleep when Lavender comes to see you? She’s driving me mad as well.”

 

Ron looked sheepish, shrinking into his pillows a bit. “Oh, yeah. All right.”

 

“If you don’t want to go out with her anymore, just tell her.”

 

“Yeah… well… it’s not that easy, is it?” Ron said, still looking sheepish. Harry felt the words heavily, and he remembered how he’d felt just the other day sitting in the chair next to Ron’s bed, and how he felt last night, standing in the hall with Evelyn. It wasn’t easy. Ron continued on, pulling Harry from his thoughts. “Hermione going to look in before the match?”

 

“No,” Harry said, gritting his teeth and adding, “She wanted to, but said she didn’t think she had enough time. I saw her go down to the pitch with Graves.”

 

Ron looked glum, a blotchy redness spreading across his neck, and they departed with brief well wishes. He wished he had given himself more time to spend with Ron that morning, but he was running late as it was and didn’t have time to soften the blow of Hermione’s new relationship—if that’s what it was. He didn’t know much about it, to be honest. The girls had been spending a considerable amount of time with the Ravenclaws since the start of term, and their distance admittedly frustrated him. He pushed the thought from his head, moving quickly down the halls and looking out the windows as he passed.

 

A noise in the corridor caught his attention, and he looked up to see Draco Malfoy, Elizabeth Castell, and Hera Manos walking towards him. They noticed Harry as well, and exchanged brief looks before emitting a few laughs between themselves.

 

“Where’re you going?” The words were out of Harry’s mouth before he could stop himself.

 

“Yeah, I’m really going to tell you, because it’s your business, Potter. You’d better hurry up, they’ll be waiting for ‘the Chosen Captain’—‘the Boy Who Scored’—whatever they call you these days.”

 

Hera giggled, her eyes moving from Draco to Harry and back again. Harry didn’t know her very well, but it was clear she found something humorous in this exchange. Elizabeth on the other hand was entirely humorless, staring at Harry as if he was an insect crossing her path. She took the first step towards him, pushing past and making room for the others to follow. Harry turned to watch them as they turned the corner and vanished. Harry’s insides tore apart as he fought the urge to follow them. This was his chance to finally see what Draco had been doing, to finally prove that he was working on something—that he was the one behind the attacks on Ron and Katie.

 

But he couldn’t follow them. He had to go. He had an obligation to be at the game, and everyone was counting on him. They had already lost too many players, he reasoned, and the reserves wouldn’t be able to handle it. He moved down the hallway, furious. With every step he took towards the pitch, his skin crawled and a hot surge of anger enveloped his stomach. As soon as he entered the changing rooms, Ginny was there, demanding to know where he had been. Everyone was ready to go, and their eyes landed on him, relieved. He quickly began to change, pulling his robes over his head and saying quietly to her, “I met Malfoy.”

 

She looked at him suspiciously, her eyes narrowing. “You can’t be serious.”

 

He looked at her strangely for a moment, his brow furrowing as he finished adjusting his robes and made to grab his broom. “Of course I’m serious.”

 

“You think I’ll believe you were late to a game for Malfoy? Harry—tell me the truth. Who were you with?” Her tone was increasingly losing its quiet register. “Were you with her?”

 

Shock spread across Harry’s face as Ginny glared at him, her grip on her broom tightening and her knuckles turning white. “Ginny—he was up there, with a couple of girlfriends while everyone else is down here. I wanted to follow him. You know I’ve been—”

 

“Does it matter right now?” Ginny cut through his sentence, rolling her eyes with obvious frustration. He felt a bit shocked as he realized she didn’t believe him and, without a proper reply, was left to watch her march out to the pitch with the team trailing behind her. He wasn’t far behind, the shock spinning through his head barely drowned out by the shouts and boos that filled the arena.  

 


 

Evelyn and Serenity trundled down to the Quidditch pitch together, walking well ahead of Hermione and Christian, who moved at the slow pace of two people fully absorbed in one another. Evelyn and Serenity, on the other hand, were absorbed only in how cold it was. There wasn’t much wind, but the sky was overcast and, without the sun, the air was frigid. Serenity eyed the grey clouds, frowning and saying, “I hope it doesn’t rain.” Evelyn agreed as they began the ascent up to the Gryffindor section. She had discovered that morning that Serenity was not the biggest Quidditch fan, though she had nevertheless attended the majority of the school games since her first year. They took seats next to Seamus and Neville, and Serenity stood out like a sore thumb in her Ravenclaw blues. Seamus glared at her playfully, leaning over to accuse her of spying in his thick accent.

 

She huffed, glaring back at him as she said, “As if I’d think you had anything worth knowing!”

 

Seamus looked shocked for a moment while Serenity held her glare, but she soon broke into laughter and he joined, along with Evelyn and Neville. The four fell into amiable conversation, and Seamus continued to give Serenity a hard time as they waited for the match to begin. They were just beginning to wonder when the match would start when the Gryffindors came marching out of their changing rooms, Ginny leading the way. Even from their distance, Evelyn could feel the determination radiating off of the younger girl. The game began moments later, and Evelyn tried to watch closely as the quaffle moved between chasers from the opposing teams. A dreamy voice narrated their movements, and Evelyn leaned over to ask Serenity and Seamus, “Who is that in the commentator box?”

 

“It’s Luna Lovegood.” Serenity said with a brief chuckle. “She’s in my house. She’s—”

 

“Loony,” Seamus supplied, his Irish drawl making the word sound particularly funny. “What! That’s what everyone calls her.” Seamus added in response to a dark look he received from Neville.

 

Neville leaned forward, looking at Evelyn with a sincere expression. “She’s nice enough, you know, and smart, real smart. But, her father writes The Quibbler and she’s got some odd theories. That’s all, really.”

 

Evelyn nodded, smiling back at Neville before turning her attention back to the players. Serenity was saying something to Seamus about Luna, but Evelyn kept her eyes on the action. She had attended many Quidditch games with her father growing up and at the Academy, especially after Theo and Devon had joined the team as beaters, and she liked the sport.

 

“And Harry Potter’s now having an argument with his Keeper. I don’t think that’ll help him find the Snitch, but maybe it’s a clever ruse.” Luna’s voice carried over to them, and Evelyn turned her eyes to where she thought Harry was—a small figure on a broom that now appeared to be gesturing angrily and then setting off across the pitch. Evelyn smiled a bit to herself, as Serenity and Seamus laughed aloud and began to dig into McLaggen, the reserve keeper. It was clear, rather quickly, that he was an arrogant piece of work that no one seemed to have patience for. Evelyn didn’t know much about him, and continued to watch the game as Ginny and Demelza, one of the other chasers, each scored a goal. She cheered along with her housemates, but she didn’t feel quite relaxed. It was clear something was amiss; the team wasn’t working together the way they should have been.

 

“Oh, look! The Gryffindor Keeper’s got hold of one of the Beater’s bats.” Luna said, immediately shifting everyone’s attention to the Gryffindor hoops. Evelyn noticed that McLaggen was attempting to give what looked like a lesson in the middle of the game, much to the chagrin of both the Beaters and Harry. Evelyn had watched Theo and Devon enough times to know how a beater should swing, and as he took a swipe at an incoming bludger she knew he hadn’t hit it correctly. Instead of heading towards the nearest Hufflepuff, who was pulling back their arm with the quaffle in hand, it veered towards the left, slid upward, and made contact with—Harry.

 

A sickening crunch echoed through the air, and Evelyn watched spellbound as Harry’s body immediately crumpled, staying on his broom only for a moment before his weight shifted to the side and he began to fall. Luckily, the beaters had been watching the same scene play out and they had their wits about them. They dove towards their captain, catching him in the air as the crowd broke out into a mix of shouts and boos.

 

As his seemingly lifeless body drifted to the pitch, and a professor moved to get Harry off the field, Evelyn’s whole world slowed. She could feel her hands tighten around the edge of her seat, and her stomach flatten. Serenity was saying something to her, but she couldn’t hear anything. She couldn’t say anything. All she could see was Harry, until he was taken out of sight. She wanted to get up and run down the dozens of flights of stairs, to meet them as they took Harry to the hospital wing, to be there with him—but she couldn’t move. She couldn’t do anything. Nausea washed over her, and she felt uncomfortably hot.

 

Serenity spoke again, and Evelyn heard her with a sudden snap of sound, “Evie—Evelyn—did you hear me?” Just by the look Evelyn gave her friend, Serenity knew she hadn’t and continued on, “I said, did you see where the bludger hit him?”

 

“It looked like it hit him right in the head.” Evelyn admitted, feeling sick to her stomach. Her hands were still gripping the seat tightly, and she felt as though that grip was the one thing keeping her from toppling over.

 

“McLaggen is such an idiot. I can’t believe he did that—and to the captain of all people.” Serenity turned her eyes back to the game, where play had briefly been stopped as Madam Hooch had moved in to break up a fight between the Gryffindor beaters and McLaggen.

 

Seamus replied, and Neville asked a question, and their conversation seemed to continue, though Evelyn was watching the doors of the changing room more than the play above. That’s where they had taken him, where she had seen the last glimpse of him, and she didn’t know where else to look for more information.

 

Once the boys were deep into their conversation, Serenity leaned over and said quietly, “He’ll be okay, Evie. You’ve got to relax. We’ll go to the hospital wing as soon as it’s over, okay?”

 

Evelyn looked at her, a mixture of confusion and fear washing over her. “Okay,” was all she could muster, though she felt anything but okay.

 

Instead of watching the rest of the game play out, Evelyn watched the immovable—unbearable—doors to the changing room, and wondered if they had taken Harry to the hospital wing. He had looked so small from her vantage point. Limp and fragile, he had been carried by his teammates to the ground and then transferred to a stretcher by a professor. They had taken him to be patched up, good as new, she assumed. But she hated assuming, and as the long minutes of the game ticked on, her stomach knotted itself up, and she felt uneasy. She wanted to leave, but she had no good reason to go. She wasn't Ginny. Ginny could have gone, could have flown there from the middle of the pitch and everyone would have understood. Even Hermione was privileged enough to go, just as she had when Ron had been injured. But Evelyn was still new, still seen as an oddity by some students, and any scene that she caused would only draw attention to herself. Now wasn't the time, she knew; now she needed anonymity.

 

That logical resolve didn't stop her mind from racing towards the worst conclusions regarding Harry's condition, however. She had no sense of whether his injuries were manageable, if there might be permanent damage, if he'd ever wake up again. She wanted to know, needed to know.

 

 

When the final whistle blew, Evelyn scanned the pitch one more time. She was surprised to see that Ginny had in fact not left the game to be with Harry. Instead, she stood in the center of the pitch shaking hands with the Hufflepuffs and looking disgruntled. The one person who has the agency in this situation, and she's using it to shake hands, Evelyn thought bitterly, jumping to her feet and looking expectantly at Serenity. "I think we should go check on Harry. We can find Hermione and Christian on the way."

 

Serenity agreed. They said their goodbyes to Seamus and Neville, who requested an update on the captain, and Evelyn led them quickly down the stairs and through the crowds of students, who all seemed to be walking purposefully slow and haphazardly.

 

"Evelyn, you need to slow down!" Serenity's voice came from behind, a huff of air gasped out at the end of her sentence.

 

Evelyn paused, looking over her shoulder to see her friend a stride or two behind her. She tried to smile when Serenity reached her side, but wasn't quite successful and she was sure her mouth was curved at a strange angle. She had to consciously lessen her pace, which chewed at her frustration and made her feel more anxious.

 

When Serenity had fallen into step with her and had caught her breath, she said, "I know you're worried, but you've got to slow down. Madam Pomfrey probably won't even let us in, and—"

 

"You think she won't let us in?" Evelyn asked, her anxiety blooming more fully in her chest. She knew the emotion had reached her eyes, and it was now more than ever that she felt she needed to improve her poker face. They crossed the threshold of the castle, and moved quickly through the entrance hall to the grand staircase.

 

"I'm not sure, but you know her reputation."

 

Evelyn groaned, hating that Serenity was right. She would wait if she had to to get in. She just needed to see him, to make sure he was okay—or at least to see that he had the potential of being okay.

 

Serenity paused at the top of the stairs, breathless again. "I really need to exercise more. There's a war on, for Merlin's sake." She muttered to herself. When Evelyn didn't laugh, she added in a softer tone, "I know how you feel about him. And if you arrived panicked and scared, it will only make matters worse."

 

Evelyn turned her gaze to Serenity, making contact with those sharp, discerning eyes. They weren't wrinkled in the corners just then, as they did whenever she was teasing or sarcastic. Instead, they were rounded with honesty and openness. She was being candid.

 

"You know?"

 

"Yeah, I do. Of course." Serenity smiled a little, and then added, "To be fair, I wasn't sure you knew."

 

Evelyn let out a bit of the breath she had been holding in since the moment McLaggen had taken up the beater’s bat. "Unfortunately, I have a very clear understanding of my current predicament."

 

Serenity chuckled lightly, letting it—and their conversation—die in her throat as they turned the last corner. Christian was waiting outside of the doors, and he turned to look at them as their footsteps drew closer.

 

"Hermione inside?"

 

"Yeah, she wanted to make sure Harry was alright. She's worried the blow from McLaggen fractured his skull. Can you believe it?"

 

"I'm going in," Evelyn gestured towards the door, her anxiety rising back up now that she was so close to knowing more.

 

"I'll wait here." Serenity said, her voice still soft and her smile small. Evelyn nodded curtly in response, and moved toward the doors, pausing only momentarily before opening them just enough to slip through.

 

Madam Pomfrey was nowhere in sight, and Evelyn was relieved for it. She could hear soft voices going back and forth. Neither were Harry's. As she rounded a short privacy curtain that had been drawn along the bed, Hermione came into view. She was standing at the end of Ron's bed, her arms crossed over her chest and her neck red. Ron was sitting up in his bed, looking better though he appeared to be rather white.

 

Harry was laid out on a bed next to Ron's, his head wrapped in a turban of bandages. He was still unconscious, but he seemed to be breathing normally. Evelyn slid in between the privacy curtain and the bed, where there was just enough room for her to stand. She placed her hand on his, and was relieved to feel the warmth of his skin on hers. His fingers moved against hers, and her whole body relaxed. From what she could tell, he was hurt—but he was healing.

 

The conscious pair were silent, and after no one seemed interested in volunteering information, Evelyn asked for confirmation of her assessment. "How is he?"

 

Hermione shot Ron a look that seemed to cut off any reply he might make, which allowed her to reply, "The bludger cracked his skull pretty badly, but Madam Pomfrey has given him a round of potions that should heal him over the weekend. She thinks if he gets enough rest, he will be able to leave on Monday. She wants to monitor him for a concussion of course, but otherwise he'll be back to himself soon."

 

"Is she worried about any permanent damage? Or something like bleeding on the brain?"

 

"No, I don't think so," Hermione replied, moving to take a seat in a chair between Harry's and Ron's beds. "She did say that he can have a couple guests for this hour, but then we'll have to go. No more than six at a time. I'm sure the team will be here soon."

 

"Do you want me to get Christian and Serenity from the hallway?"

 

"I don't think that's necessary, Evelyn. You don't want to overwhelm the poor guy." Ron interjected quickly. Hermione's head snapped toward him so quickly that Evelyn was worried it would fall off. She could see Ron sinking into the bed as Hermione’s eyes burned into him.

 

"You can, absolutely, Evie." Hermione said, her voice sterner—and her posture somewhat terrifying. For fear of what might happen if she didn’t listen to Hermione, Evelyn immediately turned on her heel and went to the door to pull her two friends into the wing. They came quickly, and as soon as Christian laid eyes on Hermione, he went to her, placing his hands on her shoulders and smiling down at her politely.

 

The gesture was enough to put Ron over the edge, and Hermione was lucky to be seated in such a way that her facial expressions weren't necessarily visible for Christian, who was focused on Harry. Her face twisted briefly into a scowl, and then into a deadpan. It felt as though her whole body was screaming, "You and Lavender were disgusting, and I dealt with it. So shut up." Even if Hermione wasn't thinking it, Evelyn was. Though she didn't know whether or not Ron could deal with it. He didn't have nearly the amount of grace or self-control that Hermione possessed.

 

Evelyn, however, turned her attention from the feud to Serenity, who was asking many of the same questions that she had.

 

"Will he wake up soon?" Christian asked, after Serenity had finished.

 

"Doubtful," Hermione said. "Pomfrey gave him a sleeping drought. I bet it will be hours before he wakes up."

 

"Maybe we can come back tomorrow, then, and visit with him for awhile." Christian said, mostly to Hermione. She smiled up at him, turning her head so that they made eye contact.

 

"He'd like that," Hermione returned, and purposefully ignored the snort Ron let out as a consequence.

 

"Need something, Ronald?" Evelyn asked, looking at him pointedly. "It sounds like your throat is dry."

 

"No," he muttered, a dark look settling on his face.

 

Serenity moved her discerning eyes across the scene, a knowing smile on her lips. The conversation died off, as everyone continued on in amiable silence (perhaps with the exception of Ron). Evie stayed by Harry’s bedside, with her hand on his, where she could hear his steady, reassuring breathing. She knew that it was somewhat inappropriate—though she had, on countless occasions, helped him up off the floor during their dueling lessons, stood close enough to rub elbows with him, and even shared a book between them, she had never established physical contact like this with him. It hadn't been apart of their friendship before his relationship with Ginny, and definitely had not been since. Frankly, she wasn't the type of person who often liked to be touched. It took a deep level of trust for her to allow someone to hug her, and even more for her to want to hug someone else. But, from the moment she had met Harry (or, perhaps, from the moment she’d woken from the fog after her memories had returned), she had recognized in him something that no one else seemed to have. It was a combination of empathy, nostalgia, desire, drive, and something else. Something she couldn't put her finger on, but that she recognized in her soul. She felt connected to him. It felt so natural, standing there worried and eager, holding his hand.

 

His fingers moved against hers, weaving between hers.

 

He probably thinks I'm Ginny, she thought bitterly, chewing her bottom lip, but refusing to let the opportunity be wasted. The moment was shattered just a few seconds later by the arrival of Ginny herself. She arrived with a literal bang, the door sweeping open behind her and clanging against the wall. The two beaters and Dean, all looking freshly showered from the game, trailed her. Evelyn was smart enough to remove her hand from Harry's as soon as she heard the clatter, but when Ginny rounded the corner and saw Evelyn standing at his bedside, she scowled.

 

"What are you doing here?" The question can bitterly from her mouth, her eyes flashing red. She had directed it Evelyn, but she made sure to cast her eyes to Serenity and Christian as well to soften the blow.

 

Evie was dumbstruck. While she hadn't been overly zealous in her friendship with Harry since their return from break, she didn't think that had removed her from the general category of friend. Unable to immediately respond, she turned her eyes to Hermione who, too, looked taken aback, but who was able to speak.

 

"We came straight from the game. Together." She emphasized the last word as politely as possible, checking the younger girl with a look. Ginny's mouth formed a straight line across her face, and it was clear she was attempting to figure out her next move. Hermione didn't give her the option, however, and continued on, "Harry was pretty badly injured, but he'll be okay. Madam Pomfrey has treated him, and you should be able to visit with him for awhile."

 

Ginny nodded, turning her eyes to Harry for the first time. Evelyn watched her watching him. Her eyes softened, and she took a step forward to the edge of his bed. She reached out to touch his foot, covered by the blanket, and as soon as she could feel him, warm and alive beneath her hand, she let out a soft sigh. It was almost indiscernible, and it would have gone unnoticed except that Evelyn was watching her so closely.

 

Ginny loved Harry. Completely. Evelyn could see it in her movements, and in the small ways she gave up her defenses.

 

"He'll be okay, then?"

 

"Yes, Pomfrey said not to worry." Hermione said. Ginny gave a curt nod, casting a quick scowl at Evelyn again before she turned her attention back to Hermione, who asked, "What took you so long?"

 

"McLaggen. We had a brief talk with him after the game."

 

Dean opened his mouth to interject, but Madame Pomfrey entered the room, shrilly reminding them that six visitors was capacity, and they were well over the number.

 

"Harry's friends should stay," Ginny said sharply, implying with a look that this included the members of the Quidditch team, Hermione, and the bedridden Ron. Evelyn had already begun to collect her things when Ginny spoke, and she tried desperately to push her indignation down. She felt the urge to slap Ginny or say something harsh, but she respected Harry and liked Ron. The confrontation wasn't worth the consequence. She hoped it was just the girl's immaturity that had sparked her insolence or, better yet, her anxiety over Harry's wellbeing.

 

"We're all Harry's friends," Hermione said quietly, looking stonily at Ginny. There was something flashing behind her eyes, but Evelyn couldn't place it properly. It was nearing indignation or disappointment. "And I think the four of us will be leaving. We've been here the longest anyway, and you should have some time with him."

 

Evelyn didn't say much of anything on her way out of the Hospital Wing or in the corridor as she walked alongside Hermione, Christian, and Serenity. Her goodbyes when the Ravenclaws left them were short and shallow, though she hugged Serenity for a few seconds longer than she would have typically. Serenity allowed it, making her feel deeply grateful.

 

The Gryffindors walked several yards before either spoke. Hermione broke the silence first, "I'm sorry for what Ginny said. I hope you know that's not how I feel, or how Ron feels, or even how Harry feels. He'll be embarrassed if he finds out she acted that way."

 

Evelyn shrugged, "She always acts that way towards me." She paused for a moment, and then added, "And you have nothing to be sorry about. I know what she said wasn't true."

 

Her tone was that of a person trying to convince themselves that what they were saying was true, but whether Hermione recognized that or not, Evelyn was relieved that she said nothing about it. Instead, Hermione said matter-of-factly, "She acts that way because she sees how Harry is with you."

 

Evelyn crinkled her brow, casting a sidelong glance at Hermione. "He's just himself with me? I don't think he treats me any different that he treats you."

 

They had reached the Fat Lady's portrait, and Hermione paused to give the password. She was smirking a bit as she listened to Evelyn, who was curious but politely defensive. "He treats you differently. He always has."

 

"You mean like when he was watching my every move because he thought I was some kind of double agent?" Evelyn allowed herself to laugh at the absurdity of the situation, wishing Harry himself was there to hear this teasing accusation. She could just imagine the blush that would sweep across his face as he messed up his hair and tried to come back with the right retort.

 

"Don't be daft, Evelyn," Hermione chuckled but her tone was serious. They were hovering outside the portrait hole, and the Fat Lady was beginning to grumble at their slow pace. "He's different with you. Even before your memories came back there was something there. She's threatened by you."

 

Evelyn took in Hermione's words, turning each over in her mind as if they were a set of precious stones that Hermione had gifted her. The reply that came to her mind hurt to think as much as it did to say, but she couldn't stop herself.

 

"He chose her."

 

Hermione responded with a sad, solemn nod and reached a hand behind Evelyn's shoulders to give her a half-hug. They walked together in that embrace into the common room, the Fat Lady happy to finally close behind them.

 

 

 

 

Credits: Text in bold comes from J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.



Chapter 37: Aragog
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

Evelyn stayed committed to her new mindset, allowing herself to fall back into her easy confidence with Harry. If he noticed, he didn't say anything, which was very much his style and one of the things she had long appreciated about him.

 

When he wasn't in class, doing homework, on the Quidditch pitch, or thinking about Slughorn, Harry was in the Room of Requirement with Evelyn. His free time was completely given over to practicing his dueling technique now, and often they practiced late into the evening. On more than one occasion, Hermione and Ron escorted them back to the tower from the room while making their rounds for Prefect duty so as to ensure the two weren't caught by Filch and given detentions. Harry was constantly improving, and Evelyn was delighted by the work they'd done so far. Most recently, they'd been trying to strengthen Harry's poker face and Evelyn had joked they may even have to spend an evening playing cards, just to try a different tactic.

 

One afternoon, about halfway through April, Harry caught up with Evelyn in the hall on her way back to the tower. His face was full of hope as he asked, "Did you have a chance to finish that Charms essay?"

 

"Why? Won't Hermione let you copy hers?"

 

Harry laughed, shaking his head. "She won't—but that wasn't why I was asking. If you had, I was thinking tonight would be a good night for us to practice."

 

Evelyn smiled, but shook her head, "I'd love to, but I don't think I can. I have a meeting with the headmaster."

 

"Dumbledore's back?" A nervous expression crossed his face. She realized immediately that he had hoped he would have whatever he needed from Professor Slughorn by then, and that he had wanted to be the one meeting with the headmaster. She wasn't quite certain what Harry needed to get from Slughorn or why it was proving so difficult—those details were only for Ron and Hermione—but she knew that he hadn't secured it yet. He’d alluded to as much himself. As soon as that nervous expression passed, however, another look came over his face, which she also recognized instantly: curiosity.

 

Just like she knew nothing concrete about his meetings with the headmaster, Harry too knew nothing of Evelyn's meetings.

 

"No, not yet. But he plans to be in this evening—his note said to look for a message from the Bloody Baron upon his arrival, of all people."

 

"And he asked to meet with you right away?" An eyebrow arched and disappeared into Harry's fringe. She didn’t trust herself to give a convincing noncommittal answer, so she nodded instead.

 

Harry acquiesced, pausing to say, "Tapeworm," to the Fat Lady. She obliged without much fuss, and he moved to hold the portrait open for Evelyn. As she walked past, his hand rose to her lower back to guide her in like a gentleman. His hand remained as they entered the round common room, which was rather full for that time of day. Students were scattered about, and she assumed many of them were finishing various assignments before their next lesson.

 

Evelyn drifted off with her thoughts for a moment before realizing that Harry's hand was still protectively stationed on her lower back. Just from the contact, she could tell he was worried (and still curious) about her reasons for meeting with Professor Dumbledore. She curled towards him, hoping her posture was reassuring. She smiled at him as she brought her hand to his arm. "I'm sorry I won't be able to help you out tonight, but what about tomorrow? Are you free?"

 

"I had plans with Ginny, but I'm sure she wouldn't mind rescheduling."

 

Their tone was low and secretive since entering the common room, but apparently it had not been low enough as a third voice interrupted their conversation, "What won't I mind?"

 

Ginny had appeared over Harry's shoulder, and she looked at them disapprovingly. They moved away from one another quickly, like guilty people would, and Evie immediately registered the absence of his hand on her back.

 

"Nothing, Ginny," Harry smiled what Evelyn was sure was his most winning smile, though from her vantage point it looked as if it was a bit forced.

 

Ginny didn't counter straight away, and Evelyn was determined to excuse herself before the younger Gryffindor could. She said swiftly, "I need to prepare for my meeting. Let me know about tomorrow, Harry."

 

Then she gave a curt nod to the couple, and she departed for the girls' staircase. Behind her, she could hear the couple break into hushed tones back and forth, but she didn't look back or pause to listen. She didn't want to know anymore than she already did. The only way she could continue supporting Harry was by distancing herself from his relationship with Ginny and by focusing on her role as friend and collaborator. It was clear the younger Gryffindor didn't care for her, and she didn't have a reason to befriend her. They could support their cause, and Harry, without being friends. In fact, Evie thought as she entered her room and closed the door behind her, the more distance between the two of us, the better.

 

 

She spent her free time before her meeting with the headmaster looking through the additional research she’d pulled from the library since their last meeting. Though he’d seemed impressed enough by the books she’d handed over to him at their first meeting and he hadn't asked her to do any additional work, he had been gone long enough to make her feel restless. She had decided to go back to the library just to dig a little deeper—and to feel as if she had something to do while she waited.

 

A feeling of anxiety crept over her as her meeting drew near, and she tried to busy herself by flagging pages that seemed important. She had convinced herself that after all this time Professor Dumbledore would have some key insight or final conclusion to share with her, something less ambiguous than their first meeting. Then she’d have an advantage, an upper hand over Elizabeth. Her sister was dangerous, and she wanted to be in the best position she could be in. She wanted to survive.

 

After adjusting her sweater several times and putting her cloak on and then pulling it off again, she decided to leave for the headmaster’s office. She would be early, but she couldn't wait any longer. She had waited weeks for him to return; it had been long enough. Her feet hurried along the corridor, and she reached his office in record time. She gave the password he had provided on his invitation, and as she raised her hand to knock on the door, the headmaster's voice could be heard from the other side.

 

"Come in, Miss Castell."

 

The door swung open quickly, clattering against the wall with too much force, and she blushed as she entered. Dumbledore looked tired, but pleased.

 

"Thank you for meeting me, professor." Evelyn spoke nervously. There in his office surrounded by his strange collection of things, after all that time, she couldn’t think of anything else to say. She was breathless and eager.

 

"You don't have to thank me, Miss Castell. As I recall, we have a few loose ends to tie up."

 

She nodded, placing her additional research on the chair next to her as she had before and turning her eyes to him expectantly. She'd forgotten how intimidating he seemed behind his large desk with his quiet observation and unreadable expression. His eyes were moving across the bindings, reading the titles and authors. It was several minutes before he spoke.

 

"Very good work." He placed his hand on the stack of books that were on his desk, the ones she’d left with him. "Between these and the ones you’ve got there, I think you've provided all the context we need to understand the prophecy to the best of our ability."

 

“So, Professor, do you think you know? Do you think we can know? Who is who, or how it might play out? Or, last time, when you said there was something there that-that frightened you: do you remember what it was? Can you tell me, because I think—I think I need to know,” She ran through her sentences so quickly that she was breathless by the end.

 

The headmaster only smiled at her, the twinkle behind his eyes both endearing and frustrating. He leaned onto his elbows and clasped his hands in front of him, staring, “I do believe I know whether you are destined to be Helen or Clytemnestra, but I cannot tell you.”

 

What?” It was the most incredulous-sounding syllable to ever leave Evelyn’s mouth.

 

“I’m afraid I cannot tell you, Miss Castell. Not until your friend, Mr. Potter, provides me with an important piece to a larger puzzle.” The twinkle diminished, and he added in a disappointed tone, “I did think that by now that he would have gotten what he needed.”

 

“The thing from Slughorn Harry’s been trying to get?” Evelyn asked, her tone almost petulant. She still couldn’t believe how the conversation had turned.

 

“Has Mr. Potter told you?” Now it was Professor Dumbledore’s turn to look shocked.

 

“No,” Evelyn admitted, squirming in her chair, “Not anything about it really. Just that he’s been trying to get something. He’s been frustrated because Professor Slughorn has been avoiding him.”

 

“I can’t say Horace’s actions surprise me.”

 

“But, Professor, how could some old potion ingredient or Slug Club artifact or whatever it might be have any impact on this prophecy—on mine and Elizabeth’s prophecy?”

 

The headmaster smiled knowingly, “What Professor Slughorn has will impact you because it will prove an important theory, one which is alluded to in your prophecy. If my theory stands, then Elizabeth is in danger of committing an atrocious act—one that would change her life forever, but would give her an advantage over you.”

 

Evelyn wanted to object, to demand to know, but instead she sat shocked and tongue-tied. He refused to tell her. After several moments, she mustered, “When Harry finds out, you’ll tell me?”

 

“Indeed, I will.” The headmaster was resolute.

 

"Is that what you asked me here to say?" Evelyn felt slightly distraught. Having spent so long anticipating the meeting, she had never expected it to be so wildly straightforward.

 

"Not quite, Miss Castell. I invited you here in the event you might have any questions—other than this one that I cannot answer." His eyes seemed to twinkle with more mirth than usual as he looked down his narrow, crooked nose at her. "You have spent a long time with the prophecy now, and done a fabulous amount of research, and yet I've asked most of the questions. What can I tell you of it?"

 

Evelyn was taken off-guard by the question, and her words seemed to jam in the back of her throat as she thought over her questions. If she couldn’t have the first one (the most important one, in her opinion) answered right then, was there another question worth asking? Was there one he could even answer for her?

 

"Professor, were you there when the prophecy was made?"

 

"No, I wasn't on the grounds with your parents. If I had been, my initials would have been included on the inscription, which you saw when Remus brought it to you. I was here at the school though.”

 

The next question bubbled up in her so suddenly that she felt as though she must have been thinking about it all this time. She asked with red, hot cheeks, "Professor, do you know why—I mean—my parents—they never said anything."

 

Professor Dumbledore nodded, a small smile on his lips. He looked for a moment as if he might speak, but instead he paused, shifting his eyes from Evie to something just past her shoulder. She turned to watch as she heard a latch move out of place, and saw an ornate cabinet's door swing open and a heavy-looking stone basin emerge. It floated past her, gracefully landing between them on the headmaster's desk.

 

She recognized it immediately. "Is that a Pensieve, professor?"

 

"Yes, Miss Castell, are you familiar with them? Many young people aren't. Most, I would think, haven't developed a need for them yet." He said, smiling gently.

 

"My father had one, much smaller than that."

 

"Ah yes, I've known some aurors to use them religiously, as they believe the practice helps them to leave their work behind when they're home."

 

"That's what he use to say," she said weakly. She talked often of her parents as a unit. Since their death, they had seemingly been reconciled to one another as if they belonged together. She rarely talked of them individually, and this artifact of a life long gone seemed to startle her, especially in this room where they'd debated the significance of the prophecy and the necessary actions ahead.

 

"To answer your question: after your parents told Minerva about the prophecy, she thought it best they tell me. They were worried, confused. Your aunt was quick to dismiss Professor Trelawnery. Like me, she never put much weight in Divination. Minerva was not privy to the reasons for my appointment of Sibyl."

 

"Which were?" Evelyn asked, almost rudely. She regretted the question at once, knowing how forward it was.

 

Professor Dumbledore, to her great surprise, answered. "Professor Trelawnery had given a prophecy to me at our interview that had come to pass. It would have been impossible to fake. So, while the every day dramatics of her teaching seem to be mere theatrics, Professor Trelawnery does have the eye at times. With that knowledge, I was happy to have your parents here, if just to have the chance to insist they take the prophecy seriously. I'd like to show you that day, if you will?"

 

He gestured to the swirling surface of the Pensieve with his good hand, smiling serenely as Evelyn agreed, standing so that she might tip her face forward into the basin as her father had taught her to do. She felt herself falling through the silver mass, drifting through darkness, and landing concretely in the same office she'd just occupied. It was much brighter though, and a warm spring wind came through the open windows. The Headmaster sat behind his desk, his hair somewhat closer to grey than the silver pearl color she was accustomed to and his forehead seemed somewhat less lined. His half-moon glasses were at the tip of his nose, and his eyes were focused on a couple sitting with their backs to Evelyn.

 

She knew them instantly, and moved further into the room to look at them. She was so fixated on lapping up every detail of their existence that she did not even acknowledge the headmaster when he arrived. Her eyes were trained on her parents, who were clasping hands and filing the room with nervous energy. They couldn't have been more than twenty, only a few years her senior. Her mother wore a tight, worried smile, her warm auburn eyes trained on the headmaster. Her hair curled gently around her face nearly the same auburn as her eyes and longer than Evelyn could ever remember it being. She had inherited those eyes, cheekbones, lips, curls, but the dark color of her hair and her nose were all her father's, who looked from his young wife to his former headmaster and back again with near-furious agitation. She noticed her father sported a mustache, which seemed nearly hysterical to her but felt very much of the time period, and he looked a little fitter around the middle than he had been in the last years of his life.

 

They made a beautiful couple, and seemed to go together the way a store-bought cake topper couple might. Evelyn's stomach twisted sentimentally as she watched them.

 

Her mother was the first to speak, "Professor Trelawnery was just talking to us, reminiscing about her morning tea leaves, then about the afternoon storm that's meant to come in, and then—it was like she was a completely different person." She sighed, hesitating for only a moment, "Albus, if I hadn't been there myself, I don't think I'd believe you if you told me, but I think she had a vision. I think it was real."

 

"I know Trelawnery has a reputation for being a bit of a quack, but Athena's right, Dumbledore. It did seem real."

 

Evelyn couldn't help herself. She gasped—not because she was surprised by her father's words, but because she hadn't realized until that moment that she'd forgotten what his voice sounded like. Her heart twisted mournfully as tears sprung to the corners of her eyes. Her hands drifted to her elbows, cradling her arms against her abdomen protectively.

 

"I'm afraid it was very real," The Professor Dumbledore behind the desk said, looking at her parents over his half-moon glasses. "For all her bluster, Sibyl does have the ability to see the future. It is not persistently present, and I fear she does not even know it's within her power, but she has prophesied before and, I am sure, she has done it again.

 

"Tell me what she said exactly."

 

Her father glanced at her mother, who gave a resigned sigh. She had always had a stellar memory with the uncanny ability to recall ideas or quotes verbatim. Her father had joked she had a photogenic ear. Her mother recited the now familiar prophecy in a careful but factual tone, "Born under Gemini, two with a weight in the war. One as Helen did Troy. The other Clytemnestra, loved as she was loved, betrayed as she was betrayed. Either must die at the hand of the other for neither can live while the other survives."

 

"And she said, 'Beware the Goddess of Discord," at some point, too." Her father cut in, looking panicked, as the words seemed to settle in the room. The headmaster was still as a statue behind his desk.

 

A beat of silence came between them, but her mother couldn't hold herself back for more than that. "Albus, tell us it doesn't mean what it sounds like. Or tell me how I can stop it. I'll do anything. After-after everything we've been through: First Mary and Marlene, then Lily and James, then Peter—and Sirius, you mine as well count him too—then Frank and Alice. We aren't allowed to visit Harry, Augusta's shut up with Neville, and Cassandra is barely keeping it together for Serenity. Everything still feels so upside down from the war... For Merlin's sake, I'll do anything to get it right side up for the girls. Tell me what to do." A quiet tear had dawned at the edge of her mother's eye, and her father relinquished her hand only to pull a handkerchief from his pocket to give to her. She took it gratefully, her hand immediately seeking out his free one and pushing her fingers into his as if she couldn't bear the disconnection.

 

"There is nothing to do. Indeed, I urge you both to cast this prophecy out of your minds." The headmaster replied sagely.

 

Her mother looked aghast, the hand holding her father's handkerchief falling from her eye dumbly into her lap. Her father, however, seemed enraged by the headmaster's suggestion. "Nothing to do?! I'm not an idiot, Dumbledore. That prophecy suggests our daughters will betray each other, maybe even kill each other, and you think I'll just be able to go back to my daily routine like it never happened, like this doesn't matter?!"

 

"I didn't claim it did not matter, Ian." The headmaster replied, leaning forward on his arms as if he really needed her parents to listen closely to the next part. "Tell me: what do you suppose we do? Attempt to decipher the prophecy? Choose one of your daughters, and banish her from your life—on the off chance she may fall victim to dark magic? You've read Oedipus, I'm sure, and should know that assumptions never fare well in these scenarios.

 

"You cannot know for certain what will come from this. You cannot treat your daughters any differently, and you cannot hate one and love the other. You'd be no better than Paris, kidnapping Helen—the act that ultimately provoked Clytemnestra's husband to human sacrifice. You'd be inciting the drama, driving them apart, allowing them to despise one another. Is that what you suppose we do?"

 

The headmaster had never raised his voice, but the sharpness of his tongue cut down her father's anger and he sat mollified by the exchange. Nevertheless Evelyn couldn't help but notice the familiar red flare that had crept around his collar indicating, she was sure, a mixture of frustration and embarrassment. Her neck did the same thing whenever her emotions flared.

 

"Do you know what happened the last time someone acted on one of Sibyl's prophecies without fully understanding it?" The headmaster said. Her parents made no attempt at responding and after a few moments of silence, he added, "James and Lily Potter were murdered, their son orphaned."

 

Her mother turned a pale green, her fingers curled at her mouth and her eyes wide. Her father looked as if someone had punched him in the gut.

 

"Go back to Minerva's quarters, enjoy your holiday with your sisters and your daughters. Tell no one of this—never speak of it—and pray it never comes to pass."

 

"I think that's enough, Evelyn," The older Professor Dumbledore said, his hand moving deftly to her elbow and, before she could object, they were hurtling through the darkness and emerging from the memory in his present-day office.

 

"You told them not to say anything or do anything." She said softly, her eyes on the Pensieve as her parents' faces drifted from the surface and disappeared into the recess.

 

"Inaction is just as much a decisive move as action." The headmaster said thoughtfully, "If your parents kept on as they had before, then they raised their odds of the prophecy never coming to pass. Two children from a loving home equally adored by their parents: how could that produce a Helen or a Clytemnestra? Even if we were to believe the prophecy was certain, how could we have assigned a role to each of you? At such a young age, there were no signs of darkness." He sighed, sinking a little as his shoulders rose up to meet his ears. "I advised them as best I could, Miss Castell. Perhaps there was another path—seeking guidance from an Unspeakable or a more transparent approach, telling you and your sister of the prophecy early on—but at the time all I could see was another young couple in front of me asking for a way to navigate destiny. I had tried to save the Potters, and had failed. We had reacted to the prophecy, and it had been their undoing. The most basic of methods insisted we try a different hypothesis, and it worked for fourteen years.

 

He paused for a moment, his gaze dropping to his blackened hand. “I am sorry I could not give you longer, Miss Castell."

 

The Headmaster looked sorry indeed, his body seeming to sag down further in his chair as he gave a small, weary sigh. Evelyn struggled to push back the tears that threatened at the corners of her eyes. She wanted to blame him, to yell that inaction wouldn't stand any longer or to shout and carry on, but in her heart she knew it wasn't the headmaster's fault. He might still believe that a prophecy was determined by actions, but she wasn’t so sure herself. There was only so much tempting of fate; it seemed to her life was like coming into a game that was half-played. The pieces were already on the board, half the decisions made, and she had to pick up from there, only slightly aware of what the strategy had been.  

 

"Even if my parents would have been transparent with us, it would have been too late. Elizabeth had so much animosity in her heart, even as a child. She was born that way—spiteful, jealous—I've felt it inside her, in her memories." Evelyn stopped, looking at the headmaster with sympathy. "No one could have known. Not from the outside, not until now."

 

"That is a wise conclusion to draw, Miss Castell." He said softly, looking slightly relieved by her response. After a moment of silence, he added, "I think it is now time for you to tell someone, other than your aunts, what we understand of the prophecy thus far."

 

She grinded her teeth, and held back the urge to object. The next urge came over her like a wave, crashing around her. The person she wanted to tell was Harry. He would understand, as someone whose life had been altered by a prophecy. She didn't know if it was about him outright or if it had been about his parents, but it didn't matter. He would get it. He had met her grief, anxiety, exhaustion—even her feigned indifference and distance—with empathy and understanding. She knew he didn't know about her prophecy, but she wondered if, on some cosmic level, their fates or souls or whatever had recognized one another, and brought them together to support one another. It was a crazy feeling, and she couldn't quite fathom it, but she wanted it to be true.

 

She realized almost immediately that she couldn't possibly tell Harry regardless of this yearning that had swept up inside her. Not now, not when they had finally seemed to cobble their friendship into something sustainable and enjoyable. There was too much of a risk.

 

She pulled herself from her reverie, and reached for her books on the headmaster's desk, but Professor Dumbledore placed his hand on the top of the stack and said, “Leave them with me. We’ve read all that we can. I’ll return them to the library, and recommend that your next selection of texts focus more on the subjects within your control than those without.”

 

Thank you, Professor,” she said stiltedly. She rose from her seat, empty handed, and turned for the door.  

 

“Evelyn,” the headmaster called, drawing her attention back to him. “Regardless of what Mr. Potter finds out from Professor Slughorn, I hope you remember what I said to you last time we met. We determine our own fate—the prophecy means nothing until we act.”

 

“So, I just have to wait, and hope Elizabeth doesn’t get this amazing advantage over me in the meantime?” She’d let her frustration slip out in sarcasm, and she immediately felt childish under the gaze of the ever-patient headmaster.

 

"Yes, in the most simplistic terms." He paused, leaning forward onto his arms again. His eyes were set on her, and he did not blink. "Fate is a paradoxical thing. It is determined, but only loosely. In your case, we know only that someone may die—a literal death, a metaphorical death, how, when. Those variables are yet to be determined. We do not know the path, only the fact that there is one. As we determine each step, the path will rise to meet us."

 

"I can choose then, Professor?"

 

"You can choose, Miss Castell. But, choose wisely. The brightest witches and wizards would act as if they knew nothing, just as your parents did."  

 


 

Hermione was in the common room, looking dejected by the fire with a book when Evie returned from the headmaster’s office.  

 

"Something wrong?" Evelyn asked, hoping for a distraction. On her way back to the tower, she had determined Hermione was the best person to inform of the prophecy now that she had permission, but Dumbledore’s parting words were still bothering her. She didn’t want to tell just yet.

 

"Lavender and Ron have been fighting for the last few hours because she thinks I was alone with him in the dorm, Ginny is furious with Harry for prioritizing time with you over plans with her, and Harry took the Felix Felicis and disappeared for Hagrid’s, of all places, hours ago. It's dark, now, I've gotten nothing accomplished, Harry could be anywhere, and Lavender will likely spread horrible rumors about me across the school—which will probably prompt Christian to stop talking to me." Hermione huffed, crossing her arms over her chest and turning her eyes to Evelyn. "I think that's about it."

 

"How did so much happen in the short amount of time I was gone?"

 

"We like to keep busy in the tower, if we can manage." Hermione replied dryly.

 

Evie smiled, taking a seat next to her friend on the sofa and leaning back in repose. "Do you think Ron and Lavender will officially call it quits?"

 

"I think so, he's been looking for something like this to really get her going."

 

"And were you alone in the dorm with him?"

 

Hermione scoffed, shaking her head, "Of course not. I was in the dorm with him and Harry—but when we came down the stairs, Harry was wearing his cloak so Lavender couldn't see him. Ron doesn't want to tell her about the cloak, so now she's been ranting about my loose morals and accusing Ron of cheating."

 

"Well, you are totally irresponsible—how else could you explain dating a Ravenclaw?" Evelyn giggled as Hermione's cheeks flushed.

 

"We’re not dating! Even if he was interested in me before, I'm sure he won’t be now. Lavender was already shouting in the common room while it was full of people, so I’m sure everyone will be calling me Hermione Homewrecker by lunch."

 

Evie rolled her eyes, "Don't be silly! People will come up with more colorful names to call you.”

 

Hermione tried to shove Evelyn away from her, but they were both laughing too much for the push to be effective. Evelyn added, “If there is any talk, I think it'll be about how bitter Lavender is. You have been friends with Ron for so many years that even if you had been in the dorm alone with him, it wouldn't be front-page news. No one will care but her, and maybe Pavarti.”

 

Hermione, though still a bit put out, was beginning to look relieved. "I hope you're right." She finally said, adjusting in her chair and closing the book in her lap. "How was your meeting? Less eventful I assume?"

 

"Definitely less eventful,” Evelyn confirmed dishonestly. The memory, the prophecy, and the headmaster’s advice on managing fate: all were technically eventful, but she needed more time to mull it over. She wanted to keep it to herself a little while longer, and to let these normal teenage dramatics take center stage while they still could. Once Evelyn told Hermione, things would be different, more serious.

 

 

Evelyn’s determination to keep quiet didn’t last long. Later that night, when the other girls had gone to bed and the fire had died, Evelyn lay awake in her bed. She stared at her canopy, restless. The harder she tried to fall asleep, the more awake she felt and, with growing tension in her head, she could practically feel her synapses moving from thought to thought.

 

Finally, she threw back her covers and shoved her arms hastily into her dressing gown. Then, she slid quietly across the floor to Hermione’s bed.

 

Wake up, Hermione. I’m sorry, yes, but wake up.” She hissed as loud as she dared, shaking her friend’s shoulder.

 

After a few seconds of resisting, Hermione’s eyes fluttered open with panicked clarity. “What’s happened?” She demanded, shoving her arm under her pillow and emerging with her wand. “Do you always sleep with your wand under your pillow?” Evelyn asked, distracted as Hermione’s now lit wand bobbed in her face.

 

“You would too after five years here with Harry and Ron.”

 

Their whispers had gotten louder, and a mumbled protest came from Lavender’s bed. Evelyn’s eyes darted to the bed and then back to Hermione, gesturing for her to follow her out the door. They found their way to the abandoned common room, where Hermione sunk onto the couch—the same spot she’d occupied just nights ago.

 

“What’s happened? Did another memory come back?”

 

“No—” Evelyn stopped herself, eying the shadows around the room. “Do that spell, the one you used last time.”

 

Hermione quirked an eyebrow, but obeyed. Just as it had the other night, nothing happened. “We’re alone.”

 

“I wasn’t honest with you earlier. About my meeting—it was eventful, and Professor Dumbledore told me I could tell someone.”

 

“Tell someone what?”

 

“About why I’ve been reading all those books. I was going to wait, and tell you later once I wrapped my head around it, but my brain has been racing all night. I don’t think it’ll ever get around it, and I need to tell you. I can’t keep it in,” she took a deep breath, feeling the words slowing in her throat. Wanting to tell Hermione and actually telling her were very different things. “So, I’m going to tell you. Now. I’m going to tell you now.”

 

Hermione looked skeptical, mustering, “Are you sure? You didn’t tell me earlier...”

 

“I didn’t want to. I was frustrated with what Professor Dumbledore said and I felt like I had to work it out on my own, but I think I need to tell you.” Evelyn sighed, sinking into the couch next to her friend. “I need you to help me make sense of what he said, or I don’t think I’ll ever be able to turn my brain off.”

 

Evelyn paused, looking intently at her friend and realizing she wasn't quite sure where to start. So, she shifted awkwardly on her seat, and asked a question she knew the answer to, “Did I ever tell you why I wanted to cast the amnesia charm?”

 

“No,” Hermione admitted, “I just assumed it was because of everything that happened with your parents.”

 

“That was definitely part of it, but there was another reason. And that’s what convinced my Aunt Minnie and Professor Dumbledore to cast the charm.”

 

“Dumbledore?”

 

Evelyn nodded, “Yeah, Professor Dumbledore was the one who cast the charm. It’s really difficult to do, and my aunt was too emotional to trust herself with it.

 

“Elizabeth was the one who had suggested it, said she found it in a book in the Restricted Section—where she wasn’t supposed to be—but she looked so sad and broken all the time, no one wanted to scold her. She said she thought the charm was the only way to give us a fresh start, to save us the burden of everything.” Evelyn paused, then added bitterly, “It was all a joke to her. After she told me about it, I was obsessed with it. I felt like for the first time we both wanted the same thing for the same reason. I was stupid.”

 

“You couldn’t have known,” Hermione interjected logically, but Evelyn disagreed.

 

“When we first told Aunt Minnie, she categorically refused. She took the book from Ellie. She refused to speak about it. One night she was so mad that I kept bringing it up, she slammed her hands on the dinner table and yelled at me. She’d been stern with me before, but she’d never... She’d never had a reason to yell at me.

 

“But then Ellie went over her head. She went to the Headmaster and told him she worried that if we didn’t do the charm, the people who had killed our parents would come for us. Now that we knew. She was certain that’s why they’d come to begin with—and Professor Dumbledore thought so, too. She can be pretty persuasive when she wants to be. Amiable, too. It felt like she was trying to save us, but we were just pawns for her to manipulate and play against each other.”

 

She paused for a moment, averting her eyes to the empty grate. They’d only turned on enough lights to see, and Evelyn shivered in the dark, tugging a heavy quilt from the back of the couch and cramming her hands into the folds. She shivered again, realizing it was only partly due to the temperature. She knew that once she told this next part, there was no going back, and she feared her friend’s reaction.

 

“We’d learned about a prophecy, a prophecy about us. Remus had recovered it from the Department of Mysteries, right after we got here—right after you were attacked there with Harry and the others. He was working with the Unspeakables, and he found it. It had survived somehow. He could touch it, but otherwise we could still use it.”

 

“It survived?” Hermione looked shocked, and her whole demeanor changed as her shoulders tightened and she leaned in closer. “Was it only one?”

 

“I’m not sure. Remus never said. I think he found it, recognized the initials, and bolted. There were probably others, but the Unspeakables would have them. Remus probably thought he’d gone crazy, my parents had only been dead a few days and Sirius Black, too.”

 

Hermione’s eyes were focused on Evelyn, but it was clear she was thinking rapidly, sorting through an unknown quantity of information.

 

“The prophecy was made by the Divination Professor here. We were just babies, and my parents were here at Hogwarts visiting Minnie and Demeter. I guess it was right after my grandmother died. But, my mom and dad ran into her, on the grounds out there and she-she prophesied, I guess. If that’s the right verb.”

 

“Did you listen to it, then? You must have—because of the charm—” Hermione spoke, answering her own question as she went. Then, tentatively, she asked, “What was it?”

 

Evelyn, who had been thinking of little else since the memory returned, had the prophecy memorized, and gave it over in the same mechanic tone she had heard from her mother, “Born under Gemini, two with a weight in the war. One as Helen did Troy. The other, Clytemnestra, loved as she was loved. Betrayed as she was betrayed. Either must die at the hand of the other for neither can live while the other survives. Beware the Goddess of Discord, betrayed as she was betrayed.”

 

“Helen and Clytemnestra were twin sisters in Greek mythology,” Hermione said thoughtfully, “With your birthday in June and the events around its delivery, it seems unlikely the prophecy was incorrectly attributed.”

 

“I never even stopped to think that the prophecy wasn’t about me and Ellie,” Evelyn admitted, a sad smile on her face. “So, since that memory came back, I’ve been researching and meeting with Professor Dumbledore to see what it all means. We know Ellie’s been with the Malfoys, she’s betrayed my family, she’s allied herself with Voldemort, but Professor Dumbledore said that he has another theory—he said something dangerous was alluded to in the prophecy, but he won’t say what. It’s got something to do with whatever Harry’s been trying to get out of Professor Slughorn.”

 

What!” Hermione exclaimed, looking truly surprised for the first time since they’d come down to the common room. Admittedly, the surprise had been building behind her eyes all the while, stoked as Evelyn had recounted the prophecy line for line. Now, with that last revelation, the end of Evelyn’s story, it had spilled over.

 

“He refused to tell me anything else. I don’t think he wants to betray Harry’s trust, but—” She paused again, her feelings turning over in the pit of her stomach. Somehow, the next part felt harder than the rest. “But he did show me a memory today. It was my parents, just after they’d heard it, and they’d gone to him. He told them not to do anything.”

 

“What was his reason?”

 

“He said the last time he’d acted in response to a prophecy, Harry’s parents had died.” The lack of surprise on Hermione’s face was a clear indication that she had already known Harry was the subject of his own prophecy. “He didn’t say anything about that prophecy, but...”

 

“But now you know it exists, and Harry doesn’t know you know?” Hermione guessed. Evelyn nodded uncomfortably. “You could tell him. I think he might be upset initially, but if you told him the whole story he would understand. Maybe it could help you both to compare them.”

 

“No, it’s not fair to him. He trusts the headmaster, and I don’t want him to feel betrayed. Even if he trusts me, he shouldn’t have to explain himself unless he wants to.” Evelyn thought this was a very reasoned response, but Hermione seemed unconvinced and her cocked eyebrow seemed to suggest a pending rebuttal. Evelyn conceded before her friend could attack, blurting out the more honest reason, “Plus, we’ve only just figured out how to be friends. It was so weird all term, and now it’s less weird... I don’t want to make it weird again!”

 

Hermione’s expression softened, and Evelyn could see the inquisitor who had taken up the argument fade back into her friend.

 

“But what if you could help each other?” Hermione said after a long pause, looking serious in the low light of the common room, “Look, I don’t know everything about the prophecy, but I know Harry’s been meeting with Dumbledore all year to learn about Vol-Voldemort and prepare for the fight against him. These prophecies, made by the same seer just a few years apart: there could be overlap, or something more between the two of them. I don’t know, I can’t say without really digging into them—and, to be honest, I don’t know Harry’s prophecy verbatim. But, you can find out. You should. You should tell Harry, Evie. It could change everything.”  

 


 

Harry had news for Hermione and Ron the next day, and their excited whispering was distracting in Charms. Evelyn was seated in the row in front of the three with Seamus beside her and Dean on his other side.  

 

Evie tried to focus on her practice, distracted by both her own thoughts on the prophecies and by the whispered conversation behind her. She thought Harry may have finally gotten what he needed from Professor Slughorn, and if he had then she knew he had inadvertently changed something for her. She was desperate to know, and pretending otherwise became especially difficult when Ron started muttering in seeming shock and making it snow with his wand—and then Lavender Brown started crying. Seamus looked surprised as he set his wand down to brush snow from his hair. Evelyn turned her eyes over her shoulder, catching Hermione's eye as she shot a weary look at Evelyn, a bit of a scowl playing on her lips. Evie forced a smirk, shaking her head.

 

"Oi, Ron, what's that all about?" Evelyn asked, feeling like she could enter the conversation now.

 

"We split up last night," he said softly. Evelyn nodded, wincing a little as another sob echoed through the classroom. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Professor Flitwick move towards Lavender. Evelyn had never had a soft spot for Lavender, but it was clear the girl wasn't taking it well and she felt a bit bad for her.

 

"No need to worry," Harry leaned forward, grinning a bit, "He doesn't mind it's over—do you, Ron?"

 

"No, it was pretty bad while she was yelling," Ron mused, "But at least I didn't have to finish it."

 

"Coward," said Hermione, though Evelyn could tell she was amused by the whole ordeal.

 

"Leave him be, Hermione." Harry said thoughtfully, casting a furtive look at Evelyn.

 

"You're one to talk. Don't think I don't know about the fight you've had with Ginny." This time it was Hermione who cast the furtive look at Evelyn.

 

A deep blush spread across Harry's cheeks, and he almost looked relieved when Professor Flitwick, who must have finished consoling Lavender, appeared at Ron, Harry, and Hermione's table to scold them for being so disruptive and to test their skills. "Now, now, boys. A little less talk, a little more action. Let me see you try."

 

Evelyn turned around in her seat, hurriedly composing herself in case the professor moved to her table next. She moved her own wand and was immediately relieved to see she had successfully turned her vinegar into wine. She smiled self-indulgently, waving her wand again and turning the wine back into vinegar.

 

Beside her, Seamus raised his brow and, leaning towards her, asked quietly, "Can you help me out? I don't want to end up like that lot." He jerked his thumb to the table behind them, where Flitwick was telling Harry and Ron they would have to practice for homework, having obviously failed at the task.

 

Evelyn smiled and shifted in her seat, moving her wand again, this time more slowly for Seamus. He tried to follow along, his wand moving as a mirror image to hers, but as he did so she noticed his hand move jerkily through the movement. She set her wand down, placing her hand on his and moving it slowly through the gesture.

 

"Like this?" He asked, focused.

 

She nodded, "That should do it. Keep it a little slower until you've got the movement down. Then you should be golden." She dropped her hand from his and, smiling, watched on as he cast his own charm. The vinegar quivered in the flask and then changed to a deep, ruby red color. "That's it! Well done!" She said, smiling broadly.

 

A few moments later, after receiving a hefty homework assignment, Evelyn and Seamus made their way towards the common room for the free period following Charms. Evelyn would have normally hung back for Hermione, but she knew that Harry had wanted some privacy with his best friends and she realized it would be better to wait until Hermione sought her out. It was an impressive exercise in self-control, and she was surprised she managed it. It helped that she had Seamus to tease about his jerky wandwork, and they bantered back and forth as they made their way to the tower. Him, taking her jabs with good humor, and her allowing him to goad her into helping him more often.

 

"You must really be desperate to be crawling to an American for help," Evie teased, smiling at Seamus over her shoulder as she walked through the portrait hole, which he held open for her. Seamus, however, was prevented from retorting as they were greeted with a bustling common room. A small group of students were clustered in the room, and a general hum filled the space. Ron, Hermione, and Harry came up behind Evelyn, and before she could ask what was happening, Hermione exclaimed, "Katie! You're back!"  

 


 

Harry, Hermione, and Ron's conversation waned as they left Charms, trailing behind Evelyn and Seamus as they moved through the castle towards the Gryffindor common room. Harry was sure the lack of conversation was largely his fault, as he had stopped listening and was, instead, watching Seamus and Evelyn with veracity. At one point, Seamus placed his hand on Evelyn's shoulder, and he nearly shouted out.

 

It was the second time they’d touched within the hour, and the way it made him feel was surreal. Inside him, two voices were competing for dominance: one begging to be the one touching Evelyn and the other reminding him that he was still with Ginny, who was not only a great girlfriend, but also the sister of his best friend. He cast a sidelong look at Ron, who seemed totally ignorant to the vicious debate in his head and who was even whistling a little bit—his own burden obviously lifted.

 

"Evelyn knows what this life is like, she makes me feel seen." The first voice explained, sound and sure.  

 

The second voice countered, "You're taking Ginny for granted. She’d be more understanding if you told her half the stuff you told Evelyn."

 

But then, "Ginny needs me too much."

 

Again, the second voice countered, "And Ron needs you both more."

 

The first voice was more optimistic: "He'll understand!"

 

The second was stubborn: "He will never forgive you. He might even punch you."

 

Harry knew that would be true, as his reasons for breaking up with Ginny were flimsy at best. Based more on feeling than actual faults.

 

Nevertheless, as Evelyn cast a smile over her shoulder at Seamus, his skin crawled. He wanted her to look at him like that. He wanted to be easy in her presence, confident that she knew and understood where he was coming from, and where he was going—what the risks were. He wanted to get back to the Room of Requirement with her, where they could be alone and he could feel more like himself. He would ask her once they got through the portrait hole.

 

He had started daydreaming again about what a relationship with her might be like, and how it would be different than Ginny, when he realized that Evelyn and Seamus had stopped walking and he nearly bowled her over. He caught himself just in time, however, and ended up instead with a nose-full of her hair. She smelled like treacle tart, lemon, and something else he couldn't quite put his finger on.

 

Hermione was the first to realize what the hold up was, exclaiming, "Katie! You're back!"

 

And with his eyes shifting to Katie Bell, all thoughts of Evelyn rushed from his mind.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Credits: The line "Katie! You're back!" originally appears in J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, and is marked in bold. As noted elsewhere in this fiction, the line "Either must die at the hand of the other for neither can live while the other survives" is also borrowed from Rowling and marked in bold.



Chapter 38: For Enemies
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In the days following her conversation with Hermione, Evelyn was constantly debating whether or not she had made the right choice to keep the prophecies from Harry. She understood that there would eventually come a time when he needed to know, especially as the headlines of the Daily Prophet grew darker with each passing day. She recognized, too, that the longer she kept the fact that she knew of both prophecies from him the more likely he would feel betrayed. Nevertheless, she couldn’t bring herself to say the words, not to Harry.

 

Harry: the man who looked at her as if he truly saw her.

 

She found every excuse to avoid losing that look. The timing wasn’t right. He was distracted with his work for the headmaster. Exams were coming up. There wasn’t a good place for them to go to even have the conversation to begin with.

 

This final reason was perhaps the most persuasive to Hermione, who had begun to hint to Evie that it was her duty to tell Harry sooner rather than later. However, both girls were unsure how he would take the news, and agreed they would need a space where he could be angry with Evelyn, excited, or confused, and, most importantly, where they wouldn’t be in danger of being overheard.

 

The halls and classrooms were too crowded, the common room too open. When Evelyn was able to squeeze out a moment alone with him on their way to class or heading from a meal to their next activity, Ginny always seemed to appear. As the days moved along, it became easier and easier to avoid the conversation altogether. Even Hermione seemed to concede, admitting one evening in the library that the conversation may be easier to have once they left Hogwarts for the summer.

 

Evelyn agreed, and immediately felt the words of the prophecy sink deep inside her, far away from her lips and deep into her belly. There they stayed, repressed for the most part—except for sleepless nights, when they seemed to bubble up inside her along with doubt and uncertainty.

 

Even if she had been able to find the time and place to tell him, Evelyn noticed that Harry seemed rather preoccupied since his excitement in Charms the day Katie Bell had returned. His preoccupation was particularly apparent as they left a dueling session where he'd bested her in their final go, leaving her flat on her back with the wind knocked out of her. When she didn’t bounce back up right away, he had rushed to her side, arriving in her frame of view just as her anxious breathing turned into laughter. She had been trying to congratulate him, but he had seemed too worried to boast or tease, and he had grown quiet—and had stayed that way as they exited the Room of Requirement.

 

She assumed he was thinking about the upcoming Quidditch match, which was just days away now, or Ginny, who had been frustrated with him before they had left to practice. As they walked, she felt that familiar uncertainty begin to churn in her stomach. She began to feel paranoid, wondering if the headmaster or Hermione had let slip something that had made him realize she had something she wasn’t telling him. She felt the sudden urge to ask him what was wrong, to confront it head on. The halls were deserted and, if they ran a bit late to dinner, no one would think anything of it as their friends all knew they were practicing.

 

"Harry," she started, halting suddenly. She was in the middle of the hall, and immediately felt self-conscious as his green eyes turned towards her. In the bright light of the torches that hung along the halls, his eyes looked ablaze. "Is everything alright?" He opened his mouth, looking mildly surprised, but she cut him off before he could say anything, adding, "Whatever it is, we can talk about it."

 

She paused, staring at him with pleading eyes. He looked back at her with those burning eyes, his mouth half-open in response, but his words drowned out by a shrill voice whining, "Don't! I can help you!"

 

Her brow crinkled as she moved her eyes from Harry to a nearby bathroom door, where another voice had interrupted the first. This second voice was more familiar, cold and articulate.

 

"I told you not to come here. Not to come to her. This is unacceptable, not to mention pathetic." It was her sister’s voice.

 

Together they moved towards the door, which Harry immediately pushed open with a deft hand. Evelyn drew her wand as she slipped in behind him. From their position by the entrance, she could see Draco Malfoy standing at the sinks with his back to them. He was hunched over, his pale hands gripping the side of the sink as if to support himself.

 

Evelyn couldn't see her sister or the third speaker, but Harry's eyes were trained on Malfoy. This is the moment he’s been waiting for, she realized, what all of his suspicions had been leading towards. To have Elizabeth there solidified all of Evie’s suspicions. She could feel her grip tighten around her wand as she crept forward, trying to find an advantageous position in the bathroom.

 

"I can't do it, Elizabeth. I can't—it won't work."

 

"You have to make it work. You don't have a choice." The bitterness seeped from her voice as she spoke, but then she grew a bit softer. "He will kill you, Draco. He'll take everything from you. Even me."

 

The last words were nearly whispered, but they hit Evelyn with force. She’d suspected that her sister and Draco Malfoy were romantically involved, but now she knew. She shifted to the left, and Elizabeth came into view. Her arms were crossed, and she stood tall and foreboding in the doorway of a stall. Despite her posture, her face was sincere and Evelyn knew that, while she was obviously trying to manipulate Malfoy, there was some truth to her words. There was feeling in them, feeling which Evelyn hadn’t believed her sister capable of any longer.

 

Malfoy gasped, shuddering and lifting his eyes to meet hers in the mirror. His face was red, and Evelyn realized he must have been crying. The fierceness in his eyes told her that her sister's words had struck a chord, but he never responded as his eyes refocused and shifted to Harry, who stood immediately behind him in the reflection of the mirror.

 

Malfoy turned quickly, drawing his wand and sending a hex towards Harry. Fortunately, Harry hadn't been exhausted by their practice and, quicker on his feet than he had been in the fall, flung himself to the side. She turned her eyes from Harry, who seemed to be focused solely on Malfoy and had forgotten her sister, who had drawn her own wand and had aimed it towards Harry. Evelyn waited until she saw the familiar look pass over her sister's face—the tightening jaw, the slightly narrowed eyes—that was the tell that always came just before she cast a nonverbal spell. Just as the spell erupted from her sister's wand, her own nonverbal shield charm collided with it, sparing Harry whatever hex Ellie had thought necessary to deploy.

 

Her sister's sharp eyes turned on her, a nasty expression blossoming on her face. "Should have known you wouldn't be far behind," she sneered, turning her wand towards her sister and flicking it with a long, slender movement. Evelyn deflected that as well, moving further to her left and casting a stunning spell, which Ellie easily deflected. Somewhere to her right, a disembodied voice was screaming as the boys continued to hurl spells at one another. A trashcan erupted behind her. Evelyn moved to the left, trying to take up room and give herself space to cast while keeping a vigilant eye on her sister. Glass crunched beneath her feet, and as her sister sent another spell her way, she was forced to drop to her belly. She could immediately feel shards cut into her palms, but she ignored the pain and sprung back to her feet, smiling sweetly at Elizabeth.

 

"You know me, El. You'll have to be faster."

 

She cast a silencing spell, which narrowly missed. Ellie laughed coldly, bringing her wand through the air in a sharp line. A blue jet of light erupted from her wand, but Evelyn cast her own and the two spells collided midair, erupting in a nearby bathroom stall and scorching the door. The smell of burnt metal filled Evie's nose, but Harry's voice was all she heard, booming through the room.

 

Then, suddenly, the room grew eerily silent.

 

Whatever spell he had cast, Elizabeth must have recognized it because she immediately dropped her wand arm. Evelyn barely registered the disbelief that washed over her sister's whitening face before Elizabeth bolted to the right, moving out of sight in the direction of where the boys had been dueling. Feet splashing, labored breathing, running water—Evelyn knew immediately something wasn't right. Her stomach dropped as she jolted forward, following her sister and calling out Harry's name. She found him, hands fumbling against Malfoy's chest, looking scared and helpless.

 

Elizabeth was attempting to knock him away, her voice bitterly cutting through the silence, "How could you! How could you!"

 

"No, I-I didn't—" Harry was knocked from his knees, his bum falling into a growing puddle of water with a splash and Evelyn could see immediately that his hands and clothes were soaked in blood. She realized, too, that the blood wasn't his. Elizabeth's wand lay forgotten as she used her hands to apply pressure to Malfoy's wounds like they had learned to do in their combat course at the Academy. His chest shook beneath her palms as his eyes bulged and blinked rapidly. His hands fumbled against hers, trying to grasp hers but seemingly unable to grip them properly. A ghost Evelyn had never seen before, the owner of the third voice, was screaming about murder and sobbing hysterically. Evelyn did the only thing she could think to do. She moved to her sister's side, her wand shaking slightly, and began to cast the suturing charm they had been taught in those same combat courses. The sutures seemed feeble, quivering against the edges of the gashes that riddled Malfoy's body, but they slowed the bleeding and became the sole focus of Evelyn's attention, so much so that she didn't notice the arrival of Professor Snape. He knocked past Harry and Elizabeth, pausing only momentarily to look at Evelyn's work.

 

"These won't hold against this Dark Magic, girl." He growled, knocking her wand away and beginning to incant an unfamiliar spell that immediately eased the blood flow. Elizabeth shuffled to the other side of Malfoy, reaching out to wipe residue from his face and leaning over to whisper something into his ear that Evie couldn't make out.

 

She moved back, her legs soaked and her clothing weighing her down. Her eyes moved to Harry, whom she wanted to make sure was okay. She took his hands in hers, turning them over and cleaning the blood from them with her wand. His eyes were trained on Malfoy, never blinking, and he shook wildly in his seat.

 

"You're okay, Harry, you're okay. It was an accident. You didn't know." She whispered as she pushed his wet hair from his forehead and wiped water from his glasses. She repeated the mantra again and a third time until he seemed to stop his shaking. His hands were holding her wrists, like a parent worried that a child might disappear in a crowd, but his eyes never left Malfoy.

 


 

Elizabeth felt something that had been twisted up and barbed inside of her relax as her Head of House finished the countercurse. Draco was silent, his face still streaked with tears, but ruddiness was coming back to his neck and cheeks that hadn't been there a few moments before. His fingers lay entwined with hers, weakly returning her grasp, and his eyes were set on their interlaced hands.

 

Professor Snape was stopping now, raising Draco onto his feet and Elizabeth forced her shoulder under his other arm so that she could help support him. They moved slowly across the bathroom, pausing only so that Snape could say something to her sister and Potter.

 

Once they were beyond the door and well into the empty hallway, Snape asked in a low and loathsome voice, "What were you doing in that bathroom?"

 

Draco groaned in response, the flush moving up his neck and into his hairline. Perspiration gathered on his brow and he passed a look to Elizabeth that she recognized. Don't tell, it seemed to scream.

 

"We were arguing about next steps." She supplied, knowing it was close to the truth. They had indeed been arguing and it had been about the cabinet, but it had also been about that damn ghost that seemed to be able to pull these pathetic morsels of truth from Draco. Elizabeth hated the very idea of the rapport between Draco and the ghost, and she thought she knew why, though she wasn't ready to admit that to anyone. "I wanted Draco to let me try traveling through the wardrobe. To see if it’s really fixed. But, he said it wasn't safe yet. He's being too timid, and I'm getting restless. Bella is too."

 

None of this was a lie. In fact, it had been a letter from Bella that afternoon that had motivated Elizabeth to seek Draco out in an attempt to again persuade him that it was time to try the wardrobe. Bella had suggested that if Draco wasn't ready to test it himself, then perhaps he could "persuade" a house elf or younger student to act as proxy. Elizabeth, however, had never had the chance to broach the topic with him because, when she had finally discovered him, he was crying pathetically to that ghost. If his injuries hadn't been so serious just then, she would have mocked him for this. Instead she shifted his weight up her shoulder a little, and tightened her arm around his waist.

 

"You mean to tell me that you sought out a public space for a private conversation, and managed to attract so much attention to yourselves that Myrtle Warren, Harry Potter, and your own sister, Miss Castell, joined you in the lavatories and, without cause, increased the spectacle you were already making of yourselves by engaging you in a duel and destroying the facilities?"

 

She paused for a minute, feeling his words drip with loosely restrained hostility. Then, she nodded her head gently so as to disrupt Draco as little as possible and trained her eyes on her professor.

 

He glared back at her, a curtain of oily black hair covering his left eye. "I don't think I need to remind you of the sensitivity surrounding your assignment."

 

"You don't, professor." She said aridly.

 

"Excellent."

 

He came to a halt a few steps from the doors, shifting Draco's weight from his shoulder and carefully leaning the young man's body away from him. Draco moaned in discomfort, but she was relieved he had made it to the hospital wing conscious. She looked expectantly at their Head of House, who seemed to be considering them. His lips flattened into a thin line and he said, "Since you are able to make so many other decisions on your own, I suppose you'll be able to decide how best to get through those doors. The matron is inside. Ensure she gives him a proper dose of dittany."

 

Professor Snape disappeared with a sweep of his cloak, leaving Elizabeth slightly baffled by what appeared to be a punishment. She spent nearly twenty minutes trying to walk Draco the last yard, and then an additional ten minutes calling out for Madam Pomfrey while half-balancing, half-dragging Draco through the door and towards a nearby bed.

 

The matron must have been tending to another student because she didn't arrive until Elizabeth was raising Draco's feet onto the bed. He had shuddered and moaned as she'd tilted him back against the pillows, the various cuts glaring back at her through the shredded remains of his shirt. Immediately she began to fuss over Draco, pulling his shirt open and examining the wounds.

 

"Professor Snape did this?" She said arching, not sparing a glance to Elizabeth as she placed a cool compress on Draco's forehead.

 

"Yes, Madam Pomfrey. He thought dittany would be the best to treat the wounds, to prevent scarring."

 

"Yes, he thought correctly. I'll need to prepare it—you have until I return to say your goodbyes. Five minutes at most!"

 

Elizabeth didn't want to argue, pulling a nearby chair closer to Draco's bedside. It was unclear whether or not he was awake. The compress had been placed over his eyes, and his breathing was shallow. It sounded as if every breath pained him, but his chest kept rising and falling much to her relief. She turned her eyes to her hands, which had folded themselves in her lap and which she hoped would serve as distraction until she could think of what she wanted to say. Her fingers were a rusty brown color, stained by blood. Draco's blood, she thought, the scene so bright in her memory she was unsure she would ever be rid of it. She was suddenly furious with herself that it had been Evelyn who was rational in that moment instead of her. She should have been the one to come to his side, poised and prepared with the spells she had been taught so long ago. Instead she had attempted to use Muggle methods to slow his bleeding like a disgusting Squib. She could feel a frustrated blush creep up her neck, and she was embarrassed.

 

"El?"

 

Her eyes snapped up. Draco had shifted the compressed onto his forehead, and he groaned as he lowered his arm back to the bed. His eyes squinted in her direction, as if he wasn’t sure she was really there.

 

"You don't have to talk. We only have a couple minutes now. We'll have plenty of time later. I'll come back—"

 

"You–you can't," he started, laboring over the words. His breath was wheezy, and that barbed feeling came back into her chest, squeezing her heart.

 

Of course I can come back," she edged forward in her chair, reaching out instinctually to move his hair off of his forehead and adjust his compress.

 

"You can't tell anyone what happened." He corrected, his hand shooting up to catch hers. He still had the deft grip of a seeker, but he groaned again at the effort. She stared down at him, shocked. She noticed tears edging his eyes, and she wasn't certain they were due to pain. "Please, you can't. He'll–He'll—"

 

She nodded, cutting him off. She already knew the end of the sentence.

 

Before they could say another word, the matron returned and promptly kicked Elizabeth out of the hospital wing with the added injury of informing her that Draco wouldn't be allowed visitors until the next afternoon at the earliest. Alone in the corridor, hands stiff with blood, she weighed her options. If she ran, she might be able to catch Evie before Professor Snape was done with them. She was pretty certain she could get two or three curses in before her Head of House could stop her. She fingered her wand, tempted.

 

Instead, she turned towards the Room of Requirement. She’d take all this anger and determination, and channel it towards the cabinet. She would do what needed to be done, what Draco feared was impossible. She could hurt Evie now or she could destroy her later, she reasoned.

 

Later wasn’t too far away.  

 


 

When Professor Snape returned, he found Evelyn and Harry standing silently in red tinted puddles. They hadn't spoken since he'd left, but as soon as Snape entered, Harry blurted out, "I didn't mean it to happen."

 

"Apparently I underestimated you, Potter. Who would have thought you knew such Dark Magic? Who taught you that spell?"

 

"I–read about it somewhere." Harry replied unconvincingly, but Evelyn knew he was lying.

 

"Where?"

 

"It was–a library book. I can't remember what it was called—"

 

"Liar," The professor's voice was quiet, which made the conversation perhaps more uncomfortable to witness. Evelyn immediately felt as though she shouldn't be there, as neither of them had yet to acknowledge her. "Bring me your school bag, and all of your books. All of them. Bring them to me here. Now!"

 

Harry turned immediately, running from the bathroom. His feet slashed hard against the puddles surrounding them, and Evelyn winced as the door banged shut behind him. The room was quiet again, and she turned her eyes from her hands to the angry, black eyes of the Defense Against the Dark Arts professor. His eyes bore so deeply into her that she felt exposed. He had never looked at her so critically before, and she felt unnerved. She shuddered against her wet clothes, wishing she could excuse herself but knowing he would never allow her to leave. Plus, it felt wrong to leave before Harry returned. He might need her to act as a witness, and she knew she would do it—even though he was lying.

 

She couldn't tell if Harry returned very quickly or if he took an inordinate amount of time, as time didn't seem to pass at all in that bathroom. The air rang with silence, and she wasn't even sure if Professor Snape was breathing. All of that was disrupted when the door flew open, banging against the wall, and Harry's feet came splashing through the room. His breathing was loud and chaotic, and he looked nervous. Professor Snape held out his hand, and Harry deposited the strap of his bag into his outstretched palm.

 

The professor slowly pulled each book from the bag, turning them over and opening the cover. For some, he flipped through mindfully, examining dog-eared pages and marginal notes. All the while, Harry stood beside Evelyn breathing noisily but not looking at her. She was mesmerized by Professor Snape's movements, and gave her full attention to his process. He reached in and extracted the last book, Harry's copy of Advanced Potion-Making.

 

Suddenly, Evelyn realized what this was all about.

 

"This is your copy of Advanced Potion-Making, is it, Potter?”

 

"Yes."

 

"You're quite sure of that, are you, Potter?"

 

"Yes."

 

Evelyn noted that the second response came with slightly more confidence. In it, she could hear that dismissive tone that came to Harry's voice every time he spoke to or of the Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher.

 

"This is the copy of Advanced Potion-Making that you purchased from Flourish and Blotts?"

 

"Yes," Harry spoke again, his response firm but nearly flippant.

 

"Then why does it have the name "Roonil Wazlib" written inside the front cover?" Professor Snape was nearly snarling, his lip curling up in disgust. It was clear that he thought Harry was lying. She could remember the night Ron's quill stopped working, and began to write words incorrectly. It was Ron's book, though how Harry had managed to swap it for his own was a mystery to her.

 

She wasn't concentrating on Harry's response, but could deduce it based on Professor Snape's next remark, "I understand what a nickname is," he said. His eyes narrowed, "Miss Castell, have you ever heard Mr. Potter referred to as Roonil Wazlib?"

 

For the first time, her presence was acknowledged and she immediately felt like a spotlight had been turned on her. Both men turned their eyes to her, and the air around her seemed to fill with expectation. "On a handful of occasions." She replied, trying to sound convincing.

 

"And do you think Mr. Potter is being honest with me?"

 

She looked at Harry thoughtfully for a moment before turning her eyes back to Professor Snape. "Harry wouldn't lie, professor. What happened here was an accident, we—"

 

"Enough, Miss Castell." Professor Snape's voice was venomously low, and he turned his head towards Harry, promptly forgetting Evelyn was there again. "Do you know what I think, Potter? I think that you are a liar and a cheat and that you deserve detention with me every Saturday until the end of term. What do you think, Potter?"

 

"I–I don't agree, sir," said Harry.

 

"Well, we shall see how you feel after your detentions," said Snape. "Ten o'clock Saturday morning, Potter. My office." He paused for a moment, and then added, "Miss Castell, you are free to go. But take this as a warning: lie to me again, and you'll be joining Mr. Potter in his detentions."

 

"But sir, Quidditch... The last match of the...." Harry's sentences were desperately trailing off, and Evelyn knew there was no coming back now.

 

"Ten o'clock. Poor Gryffindor... Fourth place this year, I fear."

 

And with that, the Defense Against the Dark Arts professor swept out of the room. The only noise between the two of them for some time was the clanging of the bathroom door as it bounced on its hinges and settled back into place. Evelyn knew immediately that Harry was devastated, but she didn't know what she could do or say to help him. She assumed, frankly, that she wasn’t the one he wanted help from, that he’d prefer Ginny, Ron, or Hermione in that moment to her. Admittedly, she wanted to get as far away from this room as she could. She wanted her dorm room, with its small, private bathroom where she could strip off her clothes and shower until all of Draco Malfoy’s blood was gone.

 

Harry seemed frozen in place, but he came to life as she took his hand in hers and whispered, "Let's head back to the tower."

 

They walked in absolute silence through the halls and up the stairwells. Luckily, the halls were deserted. No one appeared to witness their bloodstained clothes, or their strained, silent faces. Evelyn wasn’t interested in talking. She wasn’t even hungry anymore. If it hadn’t been for Harry’s hand clinging to hers as they walked, she would have completely sunk into her thoughts. She led him blindly, not fully aware of the turns that came or went. They must have startled the Fat Lady when they arrived because she took the password from them with her mouth hanging open.

 

As the portrait closed behind them, Harry stopped, tightened his grip on her hand, and turned towards her. His free hand came to her shoulder, partially to stop her and partially because he wanted to touch her.

 

"Before we go in, I just wanted to say thank you for standing by me."

 

She listened intently to his simple declaration, the light of the common room just reaching their faces. Harry still looked pale, and his grip was tight on her shoulder. He held her almost as if he needed her. She nearly cried, standing there half-held by him and trying to process all that had happened since they’d left the Room of Requirement together. She must have looked quite serious standing there before him because his own demeanor became more solemn.

 

"Harry, what you did was wrong. That magic was dark, and it scared me. You scared me. So, don't thank me. Please. Just," she paused, speaking as softly as she could to prevent being overheard, "Just promise you won't do it again."

 

A grim line set across his face, and he nodded purposefully, adding seriously, "You have my word."

 

She nodded her acceptance, looking for a moment like she might say something more, but feeling too desperate for it to be over. Instead, she dropped his hand and moved out of his arms and into the common room. Hermione, Ron, and Ginny watched her go past from the couch, and though Hermione called out to her, she didn't stop. She went straight for the girls' staircase, and disappeared from sight. Harry had followed her in, his eyes never leaving her until she disappeared from view. Then he turned his eyes from the top of the stairs to his friends and his girlfriend, who were each wearing vastly different expressions.

 

 

It didn't take long for him to fill in the gaps between his bursting in to take Ron's potions book and his return with Evelyn.

 

"I won't say 'I told you so,'" Hermione started in, a sour expression on her face and her arms crossed over her chest.

 

"Leave it, Hermione," Ron said with gusto before Harry could object on his own behalf.

 

Harry himself said nothing. He felt sick, particularly after the verbal lashing he had received from Professor McGonagall, who had come straight away from a meeting with Professor Snape. When she had finished, she had added quietly, "I expected more from the friends of my niece, particularly one held in such high esteem. I trust you to protect her—not to drag her into elementary feuds."

 

Those words had been like a venomous snakebite, painful on impact and now slowly circulating through his body. To learn that he was held in any opinion of Evelyn's, on any other occasion, would have intrigued and excited him, but today it felt embarrassing. Today, it felt as if he had truly disappointed her.

 

Evelyn had not come back downstairs and he suspected she wouldn't. McGonagall herself had gone up to check on her niece, and had come back down a half hour or so later, throwing another stern look at Harry before exiting the common room. He felt increasingly miserable.

 

"I told you there was something wrong with that Prince person, and I was right, wasn't I." Hermione's sentence had all the words of a question, but her tone was direct and declarative, snapping Harry's attention back to the moment and his eyes away from the top of the girls' staircase.

 

"No, I don't think you were." Ginny interjected, her own eyes moving from the staircase back to Harry. He was relieved for a moment, until she added, "There’s something wrong with Evelyn."

 

All three sets of eyes jumped to Ginny, and Harry was sure his mouth wasn't the only one hanging ajar.

 

Hermione was able to muster only, "Excuse me?" in response.

 

"There’s been something wrong with her since she arrived! She acts like she’s your friend—asserting herself into everything with us, acting like she has a right to things she doesn’t. She’s horrible. Now, she’s tricked Harry into attacking Draco and her sister.” An angry, unflattering blush crept across Ginny’s face. Harry, speechless, hung on her every word (admittedly, and ironically, for the first time in months). Her head spun from him to her brother to Hermione and back around. “Come on, doesn’t it seem a bit convenient? Her and her sister probably planned it with Malfoy. She’s a traitor and a spy. We shouldn’t trust her.”

 

"A spy? What're you on about?" Harry finally managed.

 

Ginny looked rebuffed, "Come on, Harry! She's been causing problems for you since she arrived! First when she was batty in the fall, and then with her episodes. Then she gave you the runaround at the start of the term, refusing to help you when you were begging her to, and now this! You nearly get cursed in a duel with Malfoy, you’re banned from the match, and what happens to her? She gets a few scrapes! By your own account, she was helping Malfoy. Cared more about him then you! It’s obvious. She's not our friend!"

 

Silence stretched between the four of them. Ron looked a bit confused. Hermione looked enraged. Harry’s feelings for Evelyn and Ginny were bubbling up inside of him, churning around diabolically.

 

Hermione recovered first, saying, "Ginny, that's ridiculous—frankly, you don't know what you're talking about. You don't have all the facts. You sound ignorant, and you should watch it because she is my friend." Her tone was measured and clear, but serious.

 

"Yeah, Gin, I think you're a bit off mark. I mean," Ron stumbled into his sentence, and never quite made it to the end because Ginny cut him off, indignant.

 

"Evelyn is a problem! She has been all year—why am I the only one who sees it?" The red blush had moved down her face, over her neck, and across her chest. There was something about her tone that Harry didn't like. "She's damaged, or she's–she's corrupted. I don't know what she is, but we shouldn't trust her." Her voice was rising, and Harry knew it was time to tone her down. She was upset, and had been upset, because he had often chosen Evelyn over her, but it had always been for dueling and he had expected Ginny to understand.

 

"Stop it, Ginny. You've got no clue." He felt defensive, his embarrassment growing in response to the childish anger of his girlfriend. "You're angry with me, and you're taking it out on Evie."

 

Something flashed behind Ginny's eyes, and she raised her finger at Harry defiantly. "Don't call her that pet name. Not in front of me."

 

"You sound mad!" Harry felt hot beneath his collar, and he suddenly felt exposed.

 

"I’m not mad. I know! I see how you look at her! I have eyes, ears, a brain—you treat me like I don't, but I do. I thought if I played it cool and ignored it, it would be fine. But it's not fine, Harry. It's not cool anymore. She's destroying everything we've made together, and you don’t see it. You sit here defending her. You, and my friend, and my brother." Ginny cast them each a glare in turn, an angry tear slipping from her eye as she looked back to Harry.

 

"You're acting like a crazy person." The sentence was all that Harry could muster. He knew she had a point. He'd had feelings for Evie for months now. He couldn't deny it, but he thought he had been better at hiding it than Ginny made it seem. He thought he had been, at least in the beginning, a good boyfriend. Something had changed recently, and he recognized that, but to blame Evelyn for what had happened that day, when it was so clearly and irreversibly his fault, was absurd.

 

Ginny looked as if she had been slapped across the face, and no one spoke for a whole minute. The red rash was slowly fading now, but Ginny looked more dangerous than she had ever before in her life. She grounded out in a slow, lethal tone, "She has ruined everything. I hate her—and I hate you, Harry. We're through. We're done."

 

She got up then, storming out of the common room. Distantly, Harry could hear the Fat Lady shouting after Ginny in the corridor beyond for being too forceful. Inside, the common room was eerily quiet. All eyes were on Harry, who sat like a stone on the chair near the couch.

 

He didn't move, didn’t chase after Ginny. He didn't even say anything else. He just allowed his body to slowly sink deeper into the chair, silently hoping it would swallow him whole.

 

 

 

 

 

Credits: All bolded text comes from J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.



Chapter 39: Move Closer
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The following day, Evelyn slipped out of the tower alone. Her feet knew the path to the hospital wing from her many recent trips to visit Ron.

 

She arrived before she was ready, but she knew she didn't have much time. Ginny would be coming along after breakfast she was sure, and she didn't want to have another confrontation with her—it was easier to avoid her.

 

The wing was quiet, and she wished she had been more thoughtful as the door immediately announced her presence by slamming shut behind her. She blushed, but moved deeper into the room, noticing the figure that stirred behind the privacy screen as she moved towards it.

 

Rounding the corner, Harry and Ron came into view. The latter appeared to be sleeping still, soft snores drifting from his bed that seemed too real to be apart of his ruse. Harry, on the other hand, was sitting up in bed; his head still bandaged but not done up as significantly as it had been the previous afternoon. He was examining a potions book, which he quickly snapped shut when he saw her coming near. She smiled widely, relieved to see him grinning back at her.

 

"Hey there," she said softly, "You're looking well."

 

"If you call this mummified look well," he joked, his hand moving to his head self-consciously.

 

"After the hit you took, anything above dead is well in my book," she joked, and Harry laughed. "How're you feeling?"

 

"Good, actually. Though I think I'll be here another day still. Pomfrey doesn't want to let me go."

 

"I'm sure it's because you're such a pleasant patient to have." Evelyn smirked a bit, "And you probably keep Ron in good spirits. I'm sure he's been driving her crazy."

 

"I think you might be spot on."

 

He smiled at her again, and a huge wave of relief washed over Evelyn. She hadn't realized until that moment that she had been anxious over his state. Not being there when he woke up had left her questioning how his mental faculties would be, and whether or not he truly was going to be fine. Sitting there, joking with her, he was fine—more than fine—and her concerns started to ebb away.

 

She took a seat at the edge of his bed, and began to recount everything that had happened on the pitch the other day. He asked her questions, and she happily provided answers, surprised he hadn't gotten this information from Ginny already. She let slip that she had been worried and had come straight to the hospital wing as soon as she could escape the stands.

 

"You did?" Harry's eyebrows disappeared into his hair.

 

"Of course," she replied. Her voice was steady, but she could feel her cheeks heat up. "I was worried." Harry still looked skeptical, so she added the phrase that killed her a bit, "A good friend always worries, right?"

 

Harry muttered his agreement, and she continued filling him in, ending abruptly with their departure. She was careful to leave out pieces that would cast a bad light on Ginny. She didn't want Harry to have any idea of her feelings towards Ginny. In her opinion, it didn't matter what she thought. As she had pointed out to Hermione, Harry had picked Ginny and that's what mattered.

 

“So, did McLaggen threaten you before the game or was this just an unhappy accident?” Evelyn asked. She was perched on the edge of his bed, as close to him as she’d let herself get.

 

“No—I almost wish he had. I could have hexed him and avoided all this.” Harry paused for a moment, something moving over his face. Then he added tentatively, “I did have a run-in with Malfoy before the game though. He was with your sister.”

 

“Oh?” Evelyn tilted her head to the side inquisitively.

 

“I think he’s up to something. He was going somewhere with her and Manos, while everyone else was down at the pitch. He’s planning something.”

 

Hermione had mentioned Harry’s suspicion of Draco Malfoy, which he’d maintained since Katie Bell’s cursing. Evelyn thought over her response carefully before saying, “If he was with Elizabeth, then I think you’re probably right. It's likely they're planning something together.”

 

“You agree with me?” Harry looked dumbstruck, as if this was the first time anyone had believed him. Thinking on everything she knew that had happened to him this year alone, she thought that might be true.

 

“Elizabeth’s dangerous, Harry. She doesn’t play around. If she was with him, then there was a reason.” Evelyn paused, then added more to herself than to Harry, “We just need to find out what they’re up to.”

 

Harry had a determined look on his face when she looked back to him, and his hand was kneading the side of his bandages. She immediately regretted her last comment had been aloud. She didn’t want to excite him, and she knew he needed rest.

 

Checking the clock on the wall, she smiled and cast a sad glance at Harry. "I've got to get going. It’s been an hour already. You should get some rest. Plus, I'm sure you'll have more visitors soon, and I don't want to be in the way."

 

"You're not in the way." He replied earnestly.

 

She chuckled, knowing that wasn't at all how Ginny felt. "Still, homework and all that—I've got to keep up with it. If nothing else so you have someone to copy when you're released.

 

It was Harry's turn to chuckle then, and he added playfully, "Don't tease me, Evie."

 

"Wouldn't dream of it."    

 


 

Harry watched her go. He felt excited, invigorated. She believed him. She agreed with him. Hell, she’d come to see him. It felt like it had been ages since they'd had a proper conversation, and he realized then that he had missed those talks with her. They had talked quite frequently, coming to and from dueling practices together, at meals, and between classes. Things had been strange between them since she'd come back from her trip, and he hadn't quite fully understood what had changed between them. Sometimes, he had wondered if it had been his relationship with Ginny. It was, after all, a major variable that had changed. But since she didn't fancy him, he had ruled it out.

 

He had reasoned instead that she was overwhelmed with the coursework since coming back. It had definitely picked up with exams ahead, and he thought that maybe it was a big change from her American school or she was still catching up from everything that had happened in the fall. Or, his heart sunk at the thought, the other likely reason was that she had pulled away because things had started up with that American guy again. The way she'd fled the Room of Requirement during their last practice and the frequent trips to the Owlery felt like evidence of that. He twisted the bed sheet distractedly in his hands, trying to decide if it was worth the embarrassment to ask Hermione.

 

He knew she would answer, but then she would lecture him. She'd remind him of Ginny, his girlfriend.

 

Ginny.

 

Ginny was wonderful. She was interested in Quidditch, she was smart, and she always cut through the crap and went right to the point. He liked that she was brazen and brave, and she always seemed to know what she wanted. At times, she was a bit intimidating. Fiery, he thought, perhaps that was the right word.

 

He liked all these things about her, but there were things that rubbed at him. His lips turned down at the corners as he continued to think about Ginny. Obviously, she wasn't perfect. She was also possessive, stubborn, and—surprisingly—needy. Not in the stereotypical ways that he expected girls to be, but in a way that made it clear that she needed to have his full attention more often than not. She begged to be front of mind, in little ways like her affectionate touches and in big ways like her constant presence at his side.

 

Harry worried that she needed him too much and that she required too much from him. After all his conversations with Dumbledore, he feared that he wouldn't be able to do what he needed to do while he was with her.

 

His lips turned down further, as his brain continued on, forming a comparison. Ginny and Evelyn had a lot in common, especially on paper. Evelyn, too, was smart and brave. She seemed to know what she wanted, particularly after her memories returned. She was stubborn in her own right. However, Evelyn wasn't needy; she was incredibly self-sufficient. She had been forced to grow up after her parents were killed, and she admitted she was more serious and focused than she had been just a year ago. She was managing her memories, which seemed to require more strength and patience than Harry could fathom. She generally seemed more in control of her emotions and of herself than Ginny, who was quick tempered. Harry had a feeling that she would make an excellent Occlumens. Most important to him, she could duel better than some of the Order members, which made him feel as though he'd never need to worry about her. When the battle came, and he knew it would, she would handle herself. She wouldn’t need him.

 

He briefly wondered what it would be like to be with her, to really be with Evelyn. To know that she wanted him the way he had wanted her only a few months ago. He thought back to how he had wanted to escape from Grimmauld Place for a day over the holiday, with just her, and he immediately wondered if that desire put him in the same boat as Ginny: constricting, possessive, needy. He shuddered to think of it, but reassured himself quickly. Evelyn wouldn't allow him to be needy, let alone possessive. It wasn't in her nature to be possessed, he knew, and she wouldn't want to possess anyone. She would want a partner, an equal. Someone who would challenge her, and who would bear the weight of things alongside her—and who, simultaneously, could be lighthearted and loving.

 

Being with Evelyn, he realized, would be more akin to fulfilling a want than a need. There would be more active choice involved, and there was something empowering and desirous about that distinction. At times, he could feel his wants spilling out. He had been caught more than once staring at her, and had almost kissed her in the Room of Requirement last time they'd met. Even more, he said stupid things like "don't tease me" in regular conversations. He was daft to think she was interested in him. Even if she had been over the holiday and his assumptions had been spot on (which he felt was nearly impossible), he had picked Ginny.

 

Ginny—who had been there, who was eager, and interested, and beautiful—was his girlfriend now. They were good together, he reasoned, or at least not so horribly matched to warrant a break-up. She wanted to be with him, and her family loved him. He cast a brief glance at Ron, and wondered if a break-up with Ginny would mean losing his best friend and his surrogate family. How does someone even articulate a break-up, he wondered. He had never had to do it before.

 

His heart was heavy with the thought of breaking-up with Ginny, until suddenly reality snapped into place. Evelyn wasn't interested, his brain was suddenly screaming at him. He huffed aloud, a downcast look washing over his face. And Ginny was great. He liked Ginny.

 

He sank into his pillow, feeling tired and disgruntled. That foolish feeling, same as from the holiday break, flared up in him, and he thought again of the photo Hermione had sent and of the way that American guy had looked at her. Will I ever get to look at her like that—and have her look back at me the way she looked at him?, he wondered, despite all the reasons not to.

 


 

Hermione left the dorm early Monday morning to meet Harry and Ron, hoping to escort them to breakfast. Their stay in the infirmary was complete, and both had been successfully patched up. Before she left, Evelyn had made Hermione promise that she wouldn't tell Harry about the confrontational interaction between Ginny and his friends, and Hermione had hesitantly agreed. Evelyn had yet to dig deeper into what had transpired and how Hermione had acted, and she continued to wonder what else Hermione thought about the relationship—and if she knew, like Serenity had known.

 

Hermione had been friends with Ginny, first by way of Ron and then in their own right, for six years. She had been the younger girl's confidant, and had even trained her (and alongside her) as a member of Dumbledore's Army. In Evelyn's opinion, Hermione and Ginny were practically sisters—but she knew better than anyone how relations between sisters could sour. She didn't want to be the reason Hermione pulled away from her friendship with Ginny, but she noticed distance growing between the two girls. The look that had passed over Hermione's face in the hospital wing had said as much.

 

Amidst her thoughts, Evelyn had arrived at the Great Hall and took the vacant spot next to Seamus at the Gryffindor table. Seamus had been increasingly friendly since the holiday and especially after the Quidditch match. They fell into amiable conversation, which Evelyn appreciated. She knew she was perceived as a bit of an oddity, even among her housemates, after her behavior in the fall, but she felt herself slowly chipping away at that perception. Every time she did something “normal,” like cheering on the house team, worrying over the health of the captain, or carrying on decent conversation, the Gryffindors seemed to accept her more. It was beginning to feel as if she had allies; not so much that they were all best friends, but that if a Slytherin attempted to hex her in the hall one of the Gryffindors might cast a shield spell at the very least. Her smile widened at the thought, as she continued to agree with Seamus that the Defense Against the Dark Arts essay had been particularly daunting.

 

Unfortunately, it wasn't long before a general hush fell over the table and all eyes moved towards the entryway. Harry had arrived along with Hermione. She couldn't help but let her eyes slide over his body as he made his way towards her. His vivid green eyes sparkled behind his glasses, his unkempt hair dusting the top of his frames, and his shoulders tense under the weight of his book bag. She could see the muscles in his arms defined against his uniform sweater. He looked good as new, and if she hadn't seen the injury itself she wouldn't have known anything had been amiss.

 

As he neared, his eyes caught hers and she could feel a heat creep across her cheeks. She hoped he hadn't realized she'd been checking him out—or, if he had, she hoped he was modest enough to assume she was assessing his health. They never reached one another, however, because as he approached, Ginny stood to greet him. She clung to him, looking relieved to have him back at her side, and she leaned upward to whisper a few words in his ear. He grinned, allowing her to lead him to the empty seat beside her. Hermione filled in across from him, too far down to talk to Evelyn.

 

Hermione leaned forward, purposefully catching Evelyn's eye. She looked bothered, and mouthed "sorry," but Evelyn just shrugged. It wasn't Hermione's fault, she knew, though the incident made her even more eager to continue their discussion of Ginny's behavior.

 

Evelyn turned her attention back to Seamus, and was able to end her breakfast as enjoyably as she began it. She left the hall alone, but was barely to her first lesson when Hermione, who must have left the table just after Evelyn walked by, joined her.

 

"You alright?" Hermione asked, looking at her critically as they made their way up the staircase. They paused at the landing to allow the next flight to move to the left, which offered the correct pathway to their class.

 

"Of course," Evelyn replied, trying to sound positive. "I had breakfast with Seamus this morning. We were talking about the Defense essay—and then he started telling me how the Gryffindor loss will affect the house standings and how the rest of the games will need to play out if we want to win. I couldn't make sense of his math, to be honest, but it seems like Gryffindor still has a chance if Hufflepuff loses its next match."

 

Hermione nodded, "I'm sure Seamus was right. He's pretty good with those calculations... Though he's rubbish at Quidditch itself."

 

"Maybe he'll make a good analyst. Couldn't you see him writing for Quidditch Weekly or something?"

 

They continued back and forth on the possible career paths Seamus might pursue after graduation until they arrived at the Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom. All the while, she knew Hermione hadn’t actually been interested in her conversation with Seamus. She knew, then, that Hermione knew what Serenity knew—and that she hadn’t concealed her feelings quite as well as she’d hoped. Embarrassment swept over her, crushing her, but she tried to push it aside as she took her usual seat next to Hermione in Professor Snape's classroom. They were some of the first students to arrive, and she busied herself by pulling out her essay and double-checking it for spelling errors.

 

She found herself distracted, her eye drawing to the door every time someone came through, and she realized she was waiting for Harry and Ron to arrive. Elizabeth arrived before him with Hera Manos and Rhett Addington flanking her. The trio looked smug, and Ellie was the smuggest.

 

Evelyn felt as if she hadn't seen her in such a long time or, perhaps more aptly, she hadn't really looked at her. Elizabeth's hair was longer than it had been in years, and it hung down her back. She hadn’t inherited the tighter curl that Evelyn and their mother had shared, but had a wave more similar to Demeter’s. Elizabeth’s brown eyes moved across the room critically. She looked well rested, manicured even. The look was wildly different than the one she had sported at the Academy, where she had taken on the role of outsider. Here, she had people—people who were like her, people that that could be just as vicious and horrible as she was.

 

Elizabeth briefly locked eyes with Evelyn, and she knew instantly that the sneer on her sister's face was a mirror of her own. They never got beyond the sneering, however, as Professor Snape began to instruct the class with his sharp, drawling voice. He summoned their homework, placing it on his desk for later review and admitting that he doubted their essays would be better than their last attempt.

 

He continued, "Last week, we reviewed the stunning and disarming spells that are most effective in dueling. We will practice those spells today in pairs, in the hopes that some of you may be able to scrape by with nonverbal castings."

 

A few groans were admitted, but Evelyn smiled. It was close enough to dueling to delight her. The desks were cleared away, and the students allowed to choose their own partners. She snagged Hermione, though she could tell from the look Harry was giving her that he had hoped to be considered. The two girls entered into informal stances, and immediately began to volley the various spells back and forth.

 

Hermione made an excellent partner, and after only a few minutes it was clear that both girls had the spells worked out verbally and nonverbally. As Professor Snape made his way towards them and observed their technique, he begrudgingly acknowledged that their forms were "proficient, particularly for this group," and gave them each five points. Evelyn considered this high praise. She smiled at him and said thank you before he grimaced and turned away, moving back towards Ron and Harry—who immediately lost them the points they’d earned by making snide comments when Snape critiqued them.

 

"Should we pick it up a bit? Hermione asked, pushing her sleeves up and smiling.

 

Evelyn agreed enthusiastically, and within moments their volley had picked up and they were truly dueling.    

 

 

"Good work in there," Harry said, arriving at Evelyn's side as the students thinned out, moving in opposite directions towards their various destinations. Most of the Gryffindors were headed back to the Great Hall, where they would relax and have lunch before Potions that afternoon.

 

"Thanks," Evelyn said brightly, pushing her hair behind her ear. She felt flushed and her heartbeat was still elevated from her duel with Hermione. They had enjoyed themselves, and Evelyn was quite happy for the exercise. "I wish we had the chance to duel in class more often."

 

She knew immediately this had been the wrong thing to say as Harry’s eyes brightened and he nudged her with his elbow, "Well, you know, I’d be happy to duel with you."

 

"I-I don't know, Harry. I'm not sure there’s anything else I can teach you—you looked great in there. Your nonverbals have really improved." Her smile flickered briefly as she hoped that this would be enough to deter him for now. She hated avoiding him like this, but she didn't have another option. If anything like last time happened again, she didn’t think she could stop herself from taking the chance and kissing him. She wished Hermione or Ron would interrupt them, but they walked slowly behind them bickering softly with one another.

 

"My nonverbals are alright, but they're not as tight as yours or Hermione's. If you saw me at all in there, I'm sure you noticed. It's like they're on a slight delay. I really need to practice, to get beyond that."

 

Something flashed in his eyes, and she wondered briefly if it was fear. She'd never seen fear on Harry before.

 

"I noticed," She admitted, "Frankly, you're probably thinking too hard. You just need to get in a different headspace."

 

She looked sidelong at him and knew what he was going to say before the words were out of his mouth. He didn't need a different headspace; he didn't want one. He wanted practice. He wanted preparation. For battle. She wondered, for the first time, if it was selfish to deny him—the battle was coming, and this was a concrete way she could contribute right now.

 

Maybe it's me that needs a different headspace, she thought, feeling a bit foolish for letting her feelings for Harry distract from the larger stakes. So, instead of giving him the runaround, she found herself asking, "When did you want to meet up?"    

 


 

"I'm surprised Hermione allowed you to make time for a bit of dueling, after she went after you about Slughorn." Evelyn said casually, shrugging her cloak off in the Room of Requirement. She turned her eyes toward Harry as she pulled her hair away from her face.

 

Harry grimaced in response. "I have a feeling if she hadn't had the Apparition lessons, she'd still be berating me."

 

"She means well." Evelyn said, smiling. She shook her arms out as she spoke, warming up her muscles for the exercise. Harry began to mirror her movements. Since Evelyn had agreed to another session, she'd spent a lot of time feeling guilty about how she’d neglected Harry’s training since break and embarrassed by her own selfishness. The feeling had weighed her down ever since she had realized the barrier between her and Harry had been erected by her, not out of respect for Ginny but in response to the sting of rejection she had felt. The realization had made her feel foolish, as if she hadn't been herself—and that made her feel angry.

 

Since she had begun to reconcile her memories after the amnesia charm was broken, she had committed to knowing herself and staying true to herself. She didn't want to waste any more time with cowardice. Looking back now, she realized pushing Harry away had just been another selfish act to allow herself the luxury of not dealing with her feelings. She hadn't learned her lesson.

 

Worse yet, she had told Professor Dumbledore that she wanted to fight. She wanted to help win the war, whatever that meant and however that involved the prophecy—and those feelings were true. Every time she looked at Elizabeth, she was reminded of that fact. But she hadn't been carrying her weight since her hopes had been dashed by Ginny. She felt childish for having allowed Harry's relationship with Ginny to impact her friendship with him and, on a more fundamental level, how she acted around him. She felt like she'd been behaving like a sore loser. Their preparation for the battle ahead was more important than her feelings. It was time to be bigger, to be herself. She needed to do more, not just for Harry, but also for the entire war effort. If she had interpreted the prophecy correctly, she was destined to be involved in the war. This could be how.

 

So, when Harry had said he could practice that morning after their friends departed for Hogsmeade, she agreed without hesitation, and, when they entered the room that afternoon, she felt more herself in Harry's presence than she had in weeks. The guilt and anger began to dissipate, replaced by focus and determination. She was ready to shift her perspective—to be more thoughtful, more purposeful, more involved. They could be friends and colleagues. They could battle alongside one another. As she finished warming up, she turned to look at Harry and smiled as she forced down the twinge in her stomach.

 

Friends, she thought, they were friends and nothing more. She would treat him just like she would Bobby or Devon. She would be herself, and she would let go of those other feelings. When they left this room, she would continue on just the same—and she would ignore Ginny, and focus on what she could offer Harry and the Order.

 

As she looked at him, Harry's glasses slid down his nose and he clumsily brushed them back up, looking up to meet her gaze with a sudden self-consciousness. She moved into leg stretches and he followed, his arms stretching downward and his muscles pulling against his shirtsleeves. He was cute. The twinge came back. She gulped awkwardly.

 

She was relatively sure she could do this.

 

"I know Hermione means well," Harry sighed as he straightened up and continued their conversation, "I'm just not having much luck."

 

"Luck? There's a thought," Evelyn said with a smile.

 

Harry looked at her curiously, but didn’t have a chance to reply as she had moved into position and raised her wand. Once his wand came into view, she fired a disarming spell. She couldn't help but grin when he deflected it nonverbally.

 

"Good!" She exclaimed, beginning to move more into the duel. She launched a transfiguration spell at him, but he cast another deflection spell, and hers hurtled towards the wall rather than hitting her target. She continued grinning, even as she had cause to throw herself to the floor to avoid Harry's next spell. Finding herself on the defensive, she rolled on to her stomach and brought her legs up under her, quickly popping up into a squat and deflecting Harry's next spell.

 

Without verbal cues, it was more difficult to determine which spell she should cast and whether she should move into a more offensive stance. She kept a critical eye on Harry's face. After a few rounds, she realized his expression was almost as telling as his verbal casting would have been. The poor guy didn't have a poker face to save his life. It wasn't long before she could tell the difference between the slight quirk in his eyebrow when he was casting Expelliarmus and the furrow of his brow when he was casting Protego. It was shortly after that realization that she caught his wand in the air, holding it high above her head and looking triumphantly at Harry.

 

Even from across the room she could see sweat on his brow. He looked frustrated, and she paused to conjure a set of drinking glasses and poured water into them from her wand. Harry accepted his begrudgingly, and took a seat on the floor to catch his breath.

 

"How come you always beat me?"

 

"I almost always beat you." She corrected cheekily, sitting down beside him. He cast a sour look in her direction, but she met it with a smile.

 

"Really, Evie. I'm trying to be serious."

 

He really was, and she sat up a bit straighter and leaned forward, towards him. "This time, it was someone close to you that gave you away. I had an unfair advantage"

 

"Someone close to me? How is that—"

 

"It was you, Harry. Your face. You gave away the game with that face." She chuckled a bit, sipping her water.

 

He blushed, a look of embarrassment rushing across his face. Then he smirked a bit, "Not the typical feedback on my face. Usually Ginny leads with sweet—treacherous is a new one."

 

"She says you have a sweet face?" Evelyn asked, her own face screwing up a bit in disgust. She had to consciously remind herself that this couldn't bother her. She just needed to keep being herself.

 

"She does," he said, finishing his water and vanishing the glass with his wand. He laughed when he saw the face she was making, "You disagree?"

 

Evelyn finished her own glass, and vanished it as well. Standing up, she moved to walk away from him. For a moment, she thought she'd keep her reply to herself, but she was trying to be more herself—so she added over her shoulder, just as she would have to Bobby or Devon or anyone else, "I would have gone with handsome. Rugged even."

 

She turned to face him, her wand drawn and ready to meet his stance. Harry, however, wasn't ready at all. Instead, he sat in the same spot looking a little flabbergasted. His neck was flushed, and his emerald eyes were stuck on her.

 

She smiled sweetly, feeling charged by his shock. "You'll have to keep that in check."

 

"What?" The word sputtered out of Harry's mouth, and he looked confused. The twinge was back in her stomach, but it was accompanied by a pleasing feeling. She had always been the kind of person to speak her mind, and getting back to that felt good.

 

"If you want to go another round, if you want to beat me. You'll have to keep that mug in check." She smiled coyly at him.

 

A look moved across Harry's face that was unfamiliar to her, but he stood and brought out his wand just the same. He came towards her, his eyes intent and a slight quirk to the corner of his lips. "Any tips?"

 

"On your face?" She laughed, lowering her wand and relaxing out of her stance. She moved closer to him in playful examination, taking his chin into her hand and turning it from side to side. Handsome was the right adjective, she thought.

 

As she dropped his chin, he looked at her. His brow was furrowed and his eyes alert. She reached past his glasses and rubbed his brow. "A lot of what I needed to know was right here. Your brow is very expressive, and unfortunately for you, you tend to make the same face when you cast a spell. So if you cast one spell two or three times and each time you wrinkle your brow, by the fourth time when your brow starts to wrinkle, I already know what to do. You've told me."

 

"I can't help it."

 

"You can, you will. It may just be that these little expressions will fade the more we practice and the more you get used to nonverbal casting. I can tell you're still thinking very deliberately. So, once it becomes more natural, it may be less of a problem. Plus, you might find that a lot of your opponents don't have the time or familiarity or even insight to notice that you're making the same face each time—it might just be me."

 

"It might just be you," he repeated, and she could see his body relax into reassurance. "You might just know me too well. That is actually reassuring."

 

She realized that her hand was still on his face, having moved to his cheek while she spoke and she was quick to remove it. "I wouldn't claim I know you too well. I just know your body."

 

When she heard the words come out of her mouth, she immediately wished she could take them back. She had perhaps been too much herself just then, as open with Harry as she would have been with Theo. She could feel a blush creeping across her chest and she was happy to still have her sweater on so that her embarrassment was less obvious.

 

Harry didn't acknowledge her comment, but that unfamiliar look was back on his face. Maybe it was just the product of her double entendres, of her easy sarcasm, her bold new frame of mind.

 

"Back to it?" Evelyn asked, and Harry managed a nod as they each moved away from one another to where there was more room to breath.



Chapter 40: Then What
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"And then what happened?" Serenity was scrutinizing Evelyn's face, watching every movement in her hawkish way. 

 

They were seated in the shade of a large tree near the lake. A soft wind kept the air cool, and carried the distant sounds of the crowd from the Quidditch pitch towards them. The weather seemed to have finally broken, and Evelyn was pleased to have her first Scottish winter behind her. It had been bitter at times, and she had missed the comparably milder winters of Maryland. The sun felt nice on her skin. She shifted onto her elbows, closed her eyes, and leaned back into the sun to warm herself more. 

 

"No idea. My aunt came to the dorm to make sure I was okay, and she said she’d looked for Ellie, but hadn’t been able to find her. I stayed in my room the rest of the night. Everything that I know about what happened afterwards is second-hand information. Mostly from Hermione." 

 

"Have you talked to Harry?"

 

"Since then? No," she wove her hands through the grass and avoided her friend’s eyes. "I think he might have been avoiding me at first. Like the next day. And then maybe I was avoiding him, especially after the way Ginny's been acting towards me. He's got his first detention today, so I guess I'll see him later, but I assume his mood will depend a lot on the results of the Quidditch match."

 

"I'm sure," Serenity agreed, her face a mask as she observed Evelyn. "Christian said he would come get us when the game was over. He was going with Hermione." 

 

Serenity's tone was flat, her eyes moving towards the pitch in a meaningful way, and Evelyn resisted the urge to state the obvious: everything was a mess. 

 

 

Later that evening, Evelyn found herself sipping spiked punch near the large bowl in the Gryffindor common room. Hermione had insisted Christian and Serenity join them, and they made a quiet foursome in the otherwise boisterous room. Christian and Hermione were recounting the major plays of the game, and Serenity nodded along with interest. 

 

Evie tried to focus on their retelling, but she was listening sparingly. She couldn’t help but cast her eyes to the entrance every few minutes, searching for Harry. He seemed to be later than she would have expected, but it was hard to judge the time—and red and gold streamers hung across the face of the clock. 

 

“Evie?” Christian called her attention back to the conversation, studying her thoughtfully with his intelligent eyes. 

 

“I’m sorry, what were you saying? I was distracted.” She admitted, trying not to blush when she noticed Hermione and Serenity exchange a brief glance. 

 

“I was asking if you had competition like this at your old school—because you didn’t have houses, did you?”

 

“No, there really weren’t enough students for houses. Ivermorney has houses, but the Academy only has about a hundred students. We had Quidditch and Quadpot, but they were more like recreational leagues.” She over-explained, hoping to compensate for her lapse in attention. 

 

Christian began to deride Quadpot, and Evelyn took the opportunity to shut up before she could ramble further. The Academy, she thought, allowing her mind to wander. It felt so far away, and all the memories were rosy now. Despite their smaller numbers and lack of competitive sports, they had been skilled in celebrating. The Gryffindor parties were a close second, she thought as she scanned the crowd and smiled as Seamus and Dean sprayed more confetti out of the tips of their wands to the delight of some second years. She wasn’t nearly as enthusiastic about the celebration though, and her eyes moved anxiously over the entrance again. 

 

As she continued to scan the room, her eyes moved over Ron and Ginny, who stood a few yards away from her foursome. Confetti dotted Ron’s hair. The two Weasleys glowed with victory. Ginny, especially, looked bright—and Evelyn thought she deserved it, considering her winning catch. 

 

Ginny caught Evelyn’s eye, and a brief sneer snuck across her face. Evelyn could feel the sharpness of her resentment from across the room, and quickly broke eye contact. 

 

“Woah,” Serenity said abruptly, breaking Christian off. 

 

“What?” Hermione asked confusedly, looking over her shoulder. 

 

“It was nothing—"

 

“Ginny just shot Evelyn the most disgusted look I’ve ever seen.” Serenity cut Evie off, and ignored the subsequent glare her friend shot her. 

 

“You’re kidding!” Hermione said hotly, looking again over her shoulder at the younger Gryffindor.

 

“It’s really not a big deal.”

 

“Didn’t she try to hex you in the corridor the other day?” Christian inserted casually, sipping his punch as if he had simply asked about the weather. Hermione looked aghast, her expression begging for Evelyn’s denial of the accusation. 

 

Evelyn squirmed under her friend’s gaze. All week, she had kept Ginny’s antics from her Gryffindor friends, relying on Serenity and Christian to air her complaints. That afternoon, Serenity had encouraged Evie to confide in Hermione at least, and she seemed to have taken the encouragement one step further by pointing it out herself. 

 

“I don’t really have any proof that her hex was meant for me. It caught Padma, so—maybe—"

 

Serenity’s well-placed eye roll told Hermione everything she needed to know. 

 

“Why didn’t you say anything? Harry will be so embarrassed; she’s acting so immaturely.” Hermione said matter-of-factly. 

 

“That’s half the reason not to mention it,” Evie admitted, “I don’t want to make things between them worse. And, really, it’s not a big deal. She’ll get over it eventually. I hope.”

 

Hermione didn’t seem satisfied, but she didn’t have a chance to rebuttal as the room had erupted into renewed cheers. Immediately, Evelyn’s eyes moved towards the entrance, where Harry had finally appeared. The crowd was practically roaring, and she noticed the team close in on him. Ron tipped the cup towards him, proving it was true, and sloshing butterbeer on the floor in the process. Harry clapped his hands together in disbelief as the team recounted the victory. His green eyes danced merrily, and the tension in Evie’s stomach relaxed as she saw his delight. 

 

Evelyn lost sight of him for a moment as the crowd swelled, but it parted in time for her to see Ginny move slyly towards him. They exchanged a few words and then it looked as if she might hug him, but Harry shifted back onto his heels and, with an awkward smile, he clapped her on the back instead. Harry was too nice, Evelyn thought as she continued to watch him move through the crowd. He found Dean, a safer conversation partner, and Evie turned her eyes back to her friends. Hermione, too, had been watching Harry’s progression through the room, and she seemed to have something on her mind as she exchanged a look with Evelyn. 

 

“The captain returneth,” Serenity said smartly, smiling openly at Evie.

 

“How has he been since the incident?” Christian asked, looking to Hermione for the answer.

 

“Quiet, angry, embarrassed. He hasn’t said much about it, but I’ve been trying to leave it alone.” Hermione said honestly. Evie knew it was difficult for Hermione not to insert herself, to pick and prod when she felt something was amiss, but she had been as reserved as she could be—especially since Harry had sacrificed his potions book. Evelyn had heard this all from Hermione, as she herself had kept her distance from Harry just as she’d told Serenity that afternoon. The friendly air that had been established between them had become charged after the attack in the bathroom and his subsequent breakup. She wasn’t angry with him, and the dark magic he had performed hadn’t scared her. She just felt like they needed space from one another, even though he hadn’t asked for it. The school had been rampant with whispers, and she didn’t want to make things worse for him. 

 

Serenity had joked earlier that day that she simply had cold feet now that he was single and she’d denied the accusation then, but, when he appeared at Hermione’s side and her stomach turned over, she thought smartly that she might have to eat her words. 

 

“Hey,” He said, grinning at the group of friendly faces. He rushed a hand through his hair in an obvious attempt to make it lay flat, but it only seemed to make it spring up more fully. 

 

“Hi,” she replied, suddenly stupid. It was the first time they’d spoken since the attack on Draco Malfoy, and her stomach twisted with the distance that had erupted between them over such a short span of time. Weirdly, she realized, she’d missed him. 

 

“What’d you think of the game?” He asked politely, his eyes focused on her completely, even as Christian and Hermione took up the response, echoing their earlier summaries and congratulating him. 

 

“You apparently shaped a brilliant team, but we weren’t there to witness it,” Serenity added, gesturing between herself and Evelyn. 

 

“Oh?” Harry’s brow crinkled for a moment, a thought flashing behind his eyes. 

 

“But, cheers to you, mate,” Christian offered good-naturedly, pausing to hand Harry a cup of the spiked punch and fill the others. They raised their cups, smiling and muttering another round of congratulations before drinking. Evelyn took hers down enthusiastically, letting the hot aftertaste of firewhisky smooth over the complicated feelings in her gut. 

 

Hermione squeezed Harry’s arm affectionately, setting her own cup down and asking him what had held him up in Professor Snape’s detention. 

 

“Other than the fact that he’s a mean old git?” Harry joked, his eyes back to Evelyn as frequently as he could allow. She just kept smiling at him, as all of her words had seemed to vanish. 

 

The group around her chatted on, but Harry grew quieter as he realized Evie wasn’t speaking much. His bright eyes, however, caught hers again and again as they continued to dart smilies back and forth to one another. 

 

Serenity eventually excused herself to grab butterbeers for the group, stepping to the other side of the punch bowl to load her arms with bottles. Evelyn watched her friend’s maneuverings, unaware that beside her Harry has closed the gap in the circle until she felt the warm pressure of a hand on her low back. 

 

She turned into the familiar palm, her eyes alighting on him. 

 

“Could we talk? For a second. Away from here, maybe?” He asked tentatively, the grin he’d been giving her back and forth across their conversation hovering uncertainly on his lips. Everything about his posture made it clear he feared she might say no. 

 

She hadn’t ever really been able to say no to him, she realized as she nodded mutely. The feeling in her gut was growing more jumbled, but her smile persisted as he pressed his hand more securely into her back and guided her through the crowd. Fellow Gryffindors continued to congratulate Harry, high fiving or clap him on the back as he moved past them. To his credit, he never let go of her.

 

When they finally made it through the portrait hole, the silence of the corridor was shocking. The flagstone all around felt cool, and in the spacious, quiet, empty expanse, Evelyn felt a little tipsier than she had in the common room. 

 

“What’s up?” She managed, forcing herself to look him in the face. 

 

“Not here,” he returned, his eyes sweeping the corridor quickly. It seemed empty, but they were very much exposed, and she instinctively knew that he’d prefer the quiet shelter of a classroom. She followed him as he found his way down the hall. He eventually selected a darkened classroom near the stairs with windows facing the Forbidden Forest. She’d never been in this particular room before, and the notes on the board suggested third-year curriculum. 

 

He moved into the room, heading straight for the far wall where the bank of deep-set windows spanned the stone. She followed him, making assumptions about the conversation they were about to have: an apology, him checking to see if she was okay, a request to resume their dueling. He cast a briefly nervous look over his shoulder at her, as if to check that she was still there, and then he leaned onto the windowsill. She took a position against the wall, leaning her shoulder into it and squaring herself to him. 

 

It was nice just to be in a quiet room with him, she realized, taking in the angles of his face in the moonlight. His glasses had slipped down the bridge of his nose while he looked through the window towards the forest, his lenses flashing in the white light of the nearly full moon.  She let the silence settle around them; she wasn’t in any rush. 

 

Eventually, he said, “I need to apologize to you. I should have never charged into that bathroom like that. I should have known better, should have gone for a teacher or something. At the very least, you should have gone for someone—I shouldn’t have involved you.”

 

She smiled sympathetically, “We charged into that bathroom together. You didn’t force me into anything; it was my decision.” Her smile widened as she added, “Plus, if I hadn’t gone in with you, my sister would have knocked you flat out. I don’t think you even saw her there.”

 

He shook his head at her words, looking disheartened, “I didn’t see her—but that’s not the point. I put you at risk because I wasn’t thinking. I thought I’d learned from what happened at the Ministry, and I haven’t. I could have hit you with that spell.”

 

“But you didn’t. And if you’d known what it did, would you have even used it?”

 

“Of course not!” He replied instantly, turning from the window to face her. 

 

“Of course not—because you’re a good person, Harry, and you fight fair.”

 

“I made you lie for me.” 

 

“And I’d do it again,” she said confidently, relishing the soft surprise that smoothed the worry lines on his face. “Because I believe you when you say you wouldn’t have used that dark curse if you knew what it was, and I believed you when you gave me your word you wouldn’t do it again. I believe you, Harry. You don’t have to apologize, not to me.”

 

He looked slightly less downcast than when he’d started, but not quite settled. She gave him a moment to digest his words, and eventually he continued. “There’s something else. Something I’ve been meaning to tell you all week, there was just never a good time.”

 

She quirked an eyebrow at him, but stayed silent. 

 

He continued, “There’s been a lot of rumors this week—about the attack with Malfoy, and what happened after with Ginny. Most of them aren’t true, but there’s one that is.”

 

“Is this the part where you tell me that Draco Malfoy is indeed a vampire, and you saved me from his bite in the bathroom—but you weren’t able to save my sister?” She smirked. That was a real rumor that she had overheard a second year telling a first year at dinner the previous night. 

 

His serious face broke into a brief smile, “Not that one, no.” He was looking at her with a peculiar expression that felt familiar, one that she’d thought he had sent her way in the Room of Requirement before. “The one about you, about you being the reason Ginny and I broke up. That one’s true, and I thought you should know.”

 

He seemed to squirm a little in his skin, his hands tightening around the sill in a way that would have been discrete if she hadn’t spent so much time studying his movements in their duels. 

 

“Oh?” Was all she could managing, hoping it would be enough to spur him on. Given how Ginny had been behaving, the revelation didn’t surprise her—but at the same time she was, indeed, surprised. It was the strange feeling of hearing the words you wanted to hear, whatever that feeling might be. 

 

“You were part of the reason,” He corrected, rambling on, “I-I didn’t know how to tell you or Ginny for that matter. I wanted to at Christmas, but you left, and I didn’t have the nerve anyway. I thought you wouldn’t feel the same. And then when you got back together with him, and then I knew you didn’t—so I figured the feeling would go away, and Ginny was great, but it didn’t. Ginny could tell it wasn’t right. So, she knows now, everyone seems to know now. Everyone but you—so I had to tell you. Finally. I mean, like I said, I wanted to tell you... Now I have...” His voice had grown gruffer as he spoke, his eyes hardening under his glasses and his hands moving about awkwardly as he struggled for his words. But, even as he tried to pull up his defensives in preparation for assumed rejection, his face was open and she knew he was being honest. 

 

A missed connection, she realized, they had been feeling the same. She hadn’t been wrong. An electrifying relief filled her, and she realized that she wanted to kiss him—and that, for the first time since she’d met him, there was nothing stopping her. No girlfriend, no inconvenient interruption, no amnesia charm, no traumatic events. 

 

Plus, he had done just about everything but say that he wanted to kiss her himself—that he felt it, too—and she wasn’t daft enough to let the opportunity pass her by. 

 

She took a minute step towards him, emboldened by the way the moonlight lit up the happy surprise that glimmered in his emerald eyes and the way his pupils dilated as he realized she was purposefully closing the space between them. She was almost sad to lose sight of those eyes when she closed her own and leaned into his lips. She kissed him softly at first, tentatively, as if she couldn’t quite believe that she’d finally had the chance. Then he applied the faintest pressure back, as if to say yes, it’s true, I felt what you felt, and then all precaution and pretense were gone. 

 

The electric relief bubbled in her gut, expanding and intensifying as her body leaned into his. The space between them disappeared, and his hands found her hips as one of her hands slipped to the side of his face and the other rushed into his hair, her fingers tangling into the wild, inky locks that she adored. At one point, they pivoted, and he leaned her back gently into the wall, her skin against the cool stone as his lips continued to move against hers. His tongue slipped daringly against her lower lip, and she invited it in, deepening the kiss. 

 

Her whole body felt easy in his hands, which eventually moved from her hips to the bottom hem of her top, where his fingers played flirtatiously but never moved beyond. She wondered briefly how far he had gone with Ginny, but lost the thought as his tongue slipped further into her mouth. 

 

They broke apart a moment later, each gasping for breath and staring intently at the other. He smiled at her dumbfounded as she self-consciously ran a hand through her hair, reveling at her own boldness (and secretly pleased that she hadn’t left that part of herself back in the States). As she straightened herself, she noticed that his glasses had fogged over slightly, and she giggled softly as she stepped back towards him and reached up to push his frames gently up the bridge of his nose. 

 

“Sorry about that,” he muttered, sheepishly fingering his glasses.

 

“Don’t be,” she said softly, “I like them. I like you.

His grin widened into a more natural smile, and his hands moved back to her hips. “You do?”

 

“Yes,” She was happy to confirm, smiling back at him, “A lot. For months now. Why do you think I spent the beginning of term avoiding you? Seeing you with Ginny killed me.”

 

“But, I thought,” he paused, leaning back. His hands tightened on her hips as some unsavory thought crinkled his brow. “I thought you were back together with that guy.”

 

“What guy?” She asked, confused, her mind briefly flickering back to the moment earlier when he’d said a similar thing. She’d ignored it then, but it was clear the idea distressed him. 

 

“That American guy, the one you’re always writing. The one in the picture.” The last phrase was added hesitantly, and a look passed over Harry’s face that she was shocked to register as jealousy. 

 

“Do you mean Theo?” Evelyn asked, laughing aloud before she could stop herself. She quickly clamped a hand over her mouth, and took a beat to compose herself. When she spoke again, it was with a smirk that she couldn’t repress, “We’re just friends—I’ve been relying on him to give me advice from a male point of view. Advice about you.

 

Harry visibly blanched. “You can’t be serious.”

 

She nodded, shrugging and smiling and shimmying closer to him so that the tightness in his hands relaxed. She moved one hand to his chest, where it rested flat against his heart—in a way that she’d always wanted to touch him but that had never been appropriate before. “He knows me really well, and I trust his opinion. He did kiss me while I was in Maryland,” Harry’s hands tightened on her hips again, “But, I told him that it was like a goodbye kiss. There wasn’t anything there anymore. My life’s here now, and I’m not interested in him like that. I’m interested in you like that,” she smiled reassuringly. “He’ll be pleased after these months that I’ve finally gotten my moment with you.”

 

“A moment? Was that all you wanted?” Harry’s brow wrinkled, and there was a playful mixture of flirtation and fear on his face. 

 

“If I’m being honest, no. It’s not all I wanted, but I didn’t want to assume anything, Harry. If I had my way, I’d get a lot more moments.” She admitted, leaning back into the way and bringing him with her. 

 

She looked up at him fondly, delighted to see a smile break across his face. He closed the space between them, and she loved the newfound confidence with which he kissed her. Between kisses, Harry managed to whisper, “You’ll have your way, as often as I can allow it.”

 



"Slow down," he hissed, gripping his side with a painful wince.

 

She stopped her natural impulse, which was to glare at him, and instead gave him a terse smile and slowed her pace. He was still paler than normal, but Madam Pomfrey had cleared him to leave the hospital wing on the condition that he returned once a day for fresh bandages and dittany. His wounds had been caused by Dark Magic, and while they were healed, they were still raw, tender, and at risk of reopening. 

 

With all of this in mind, Elizabeth was trying to be patient. Draco has been immediately suspicious of her cheery demeanor and excitement when she arrived at the hospital wing to escort him back to the common room. She had listened with a kind smile as the insipid matron listed all the necessary steps that they were to take to ensure Draco continued to heal properly and with minimal scarring. She had even thanked the woman before taking Draco’s arm and helping him through the door. 

 

In the corridor, he had shaken her off with a scowl and demanded, "What the bloody hell is wrong with you?!"

 

She had responded coyly, the saccharine smile she had held for the matron dropping from her face, "Can't I just be happy to have you back, safe and sound?"

 

"Drop the shit." He had spit out, looking injured and pale. He had good reason to be furious with her—for her toying with him just then, for how she had reacted to finding him with that ghost again, and for sending excuses with Hera and Rhett instead of visiting him herself. After what she’d whispered to him on the bathroom floor when she thought he’d die there, she was sure he’d thought she’d at least visit. 

 

But she hadn’t visited, not once. She’d been too busy. 

 

"As you wish, darling," She had said sweetly. The pet name had made his eyes bug out a bit, and a piece of his perfectly coiffed hair fell out of place. She couldn't help herself—she was in a good mood. She had added, "This way,” and led them through the corridors expertly and at a speedy clip until the pain in his side caused him to object.

 

He huffed beside her, walking at a slower pace and looking more disgruntled with every step. She still felt thrilled and ignored the way he eyed her suspiciously, saying nothing. He knew where she was taking him; he was deeply intimate with this part of the castle.

 

"What's this about?"  

 

"It’s a surprise," she replied, the door appearing in front of her as she stopped pacing. She gave him a playful look over her shoulder, and he followed her through the door. Inside, she threaded her arm through his and allowed him to lean on her a little as they moved towards the cabinet. 

 

Draco was beginning to grumble, “I’ve only just been released. I don’t want to work on it right now—no one should expect me to.”

 

She ignored him, letting her eyes shift over the piles of forgotten and lost items. She was nearly beside herself as they approached their destination, but she could feel Draco tense beside her. He was becoming increasingly agitated.

 

They reached the cabinet, and she took a step forward, tapping her wand against its door. Then, she stepped back to her place by Draco’s side. He looked paler than when they’d left the hospital wing, and they waited in silence in front of the cabinet—Draco increasingly agitated and Elizabeth nearly giddy.

 

Just as she was beginning to doubt it would work again, the sound came: a hollow thud from inside, a rattling scrape, and then a sharp creak as the door flew open despite its hinges’ creaking protests. Inside stood Borgen's young assistant, flushed. 

 

"There ‘tis, miss. As promis’d." He said, stepping from the cabinet and adjusting his belt. He looked relieved. 

 

"Thank you," she said softly, shoving a galleon into his hand. "Take this and get back. Tell Borgen I'll expect a full report on your trip and, pending your results, the Dark Lord may be sending a few messengers through the shop."

 

The assistant nodded curtly, stepping back into the cabinet and closing the door behind him with a swift click. She paused for several seconds and, after she thought he might be gone, opened the door to reveal the empty cabinet. Leaving it hanging open, she turned to Draco and raised her eyebrows. 

 

"There it is," she said, "Your surprise."

 

He took a step forward, transfixed by the empty space within the cabinet. He ran his hand across the edge of the door, leaning in to examine the seams. They were both so intimately familiar with this piece of furniture that she wasn't sure what exactly he was hoping to find that he hadn’t seen a thousand times already. 

 

After a few long moments of silence, she added, “After what happened, I came here. I wanted to do this for you. I was,” she paused, unsure of her next words. Draco’s eyes moved to her face, taking in her hesitation without emotion—though she thought for a moment she saw something sharpen in his ice blue eyes. “I was angry and scared. I couldn’t fix you, but I knew I could fix this.”

 

"You did this for me?” His question came quietly, and the sharp edge of his earlier protests was gone.

 

"Your family will be safe now, Draco. We can put our plan into action. He'll be thrilled with you." She looked straight ahead at the cabinet as she spoke, and tried to keep her face blank. She didn't want to look at him for fear that he might be able to ascertain how much she cared.

 

"And you. He won't believe I did this, not after everything."

 

"He will," She said assuredly, still fixing her gaze ahead. "All it needed was a bit of Charms work to patch the path between the two. They were spells we'd discussed using—the ones we'd found in your father's library for building pathways, the Fabricae Tempus charm, and those variations on portkeys. You would have done them if you hadn't been attacked. It was your plan, from start to finish." She insisted, trying to keep her tone nonchalant.

 

He shifted beside her, taking her chin in his hand as he'd done before and forcing her to look at him. He hadn't touched her like that since the holiday, and she hated the way her breath caught in her throat. Her lips drew a thin, dissatisfied line across her face, but her eyes betrayed her. She could tell from the way his blue eyes burned into her. Of all the reactions she had expected him to have, this quiet intensity hadn't been one. He assessed her, reading her despite her coldness. The last time he'd been this close, she had pulled away. She had been cruel because of her uncertainty. She had feared he was too weak to complete the task, to accept her help. Even more, she had feared her Lord wouldn't want him for her. But, how could that be now? Could there be another worthy of her? Yes, he had struggled to accept her, fought against her, fought with her—had bent under the emotional strain—but the cabinet was complete now. He had struggled, yes, but he had persevered. He had done the research, proposed the solution, been certain even against her bitter skepticism. She had only implemented what he had already proposed. She had played her role, and her Lord would be pleased.

 

She opened her mouth to speak again, but the words never crossed her lips as his fingers tightened around her chin and yanked her to him. His grip was firm, shifting into her hair, the roots of her hair pulling against his callous palms and the breath escaping from her lips against his with delight. His fervor was so much so that his lips crashed sloppily against hers, missing her mouth slightly once and then again as he overcorrected. She found her body curling into his instinctively, closing the distance between them. His other hand moved to her lower back, and he grinded his hips against hers. They weren't being nearly as tender as Madam Pomfrey had warned them to be, but Ellie refused to be the first to pull away. 

 

She loved how he moved against her so expertly—his tongue, his arms, his hips all working together to excite every fiber of her. She craved him, had been craving him, and finally, here, was her fix. Something in her belly happily tightened and released as he reached down and lifted her from her feet, her legs responding without thought as they wrapped around his waist. She could feel his muscles flex against her body, and was almost disappointed when he placed her on an antique chaise nearby and pulled away. 

 

"Are you okay?" She asked, her eyes shifting over his abdomen in search of blood. She worried that she'd gotten carried away with herself or the excursion had opened one of his wounds, but she didn't spy any red spots on his white shirt. 

 

"Yes," Draco said with quiet confidence, and she noticed a steely look in his eyes that he hadn't had before as he leaned back into her. His lips were on hers again, and he deepened the kiss with renewed energy. That brief moment flashed in her mind, as Elizabeth pondered the change that had occurred in him—and how she felt it in the way his hands gripped her hips. He looked different, she thought as they separated again, this time to remove each other's shirts. The scars form Potter's attack shone pearly and pink in the light, scattered across his abdomen, chest, and arms. Despite the scars, he glowed with the realization of a year's worth of work. He was confident again of his ability, and the way his hands moved across her most sensitive spots proved it. She thought back to the moment the young assistant had stepped out of the cabinet, and how immediately the haunted look that had settled around the edges of Draco's eyes had dissipated. He had seemed taller when he had turned to kiss her shortly after that. He knew what he wanted now, and she was prepared to give it to him—she was starting right then with her fingers digging into his strong shoulders and his breath on her neck.

 

“Yes,” she whispered back, echoing his words but with a meaning altogether different as the rest of their clothes were removed. It may have been her imagination, but her word seemed to echo across the vast room of lost things. Yes, yes, yes rippling away from her. 

 

Her skin tingled under his touch, and with every caress, every thrust, every exhale she could feel him returning to the man she’d first encountered. He was more himself in that moment than he had been in the last few months as they’d struggled to find the last missing piece to repair the cabinet. 

 

Some time later, their bodies broke apart satisfied and panting. There wasn’t quite room for both of them on the chaise, and they fumbled about self-consciously, disentangling their limbs and their clothes. She realized she wanted to leave before the awkwardness of what they’d just done settled in, and she rose to her feet and gestured for him to follow her out. Before she could get too far, however, he reached her and again took her chin in his hand and forced her eyes to him. 

 

“Elizabeth—"

 

“What?” She interrupted slickly. She didn’t want to discuss what they’d done or what it meant right then, and the look on her face must have conveyed that, but he didn’t back down from her.

 

“The cabinet. Thank you for that. You fixed it, and I—"

 

“We fixed it, Draco. Together.” She reiterated, leaning into him and planting a small, reassuring kiss on his cheek. She kept close to his body, familiar with it now in a way she’d never thought she’d be. Her head dipped against his chest, she added, “We can do the next part, too. Together. We can kill Dumbledore.”

 

In the silence of the room, the wild beating of his heart in her ear was deafening.

 

 

 

 

 

Author's Note: Thank you to all of the readers who have not only taken the time to read this while I've been on hiatus, but who have been good enough to leave reviews. I know it's been some time; last summer, I took on a number of freelance assignments and then started a new full-time job—and have given a lot of energy to work. With our stay at home order still in effect, I've had time to come back to this story, and to get back into writing. I'm about fifteen chapters ahead of this, and have the story roughly sketched out from there. I've also been working on a tangential project that I'm excited to share with you. If I can ask for it, please keep leaving reviews! They do encourage me to post more frequently—and honestly give me a bit of delight during a time when my anxiety keeps me on edge. xx, Antigone
 



Chapter 41: The Tower
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

Evelyn sat close to Harry, leaning across his arm to point to a passage in his Herbology textbook, which they had been looking through to help round out their essays. Her finger moved across the page, spotting the line she needed and following, word for word, as she copied the quotation onto her parchment. Harry followed her finger as well, jotting the same quote and smiling brightly at her after dotting his period at the end of the sentence. 

 

The writing was coming along slowly, as small victories like these were often awarded with a kiss or two. Ron sat across from them, a persistent wrinkle in his nose that deepened every time they kissed. He said nothing, however, which Evelyn took to be a simultaneous acknowledgment of all they had endured while he was with Lavender and a compromise that allowed him to remove himself from an otherwise uncomfortable decision between his best friend and his sister.

 

Evelyn was halfway through her next sentence, dissecting the quotation and its relevance to her argument, when a shadow crossed the table and she heard Harry address another student. He was silent for a moment and then said quickly, "Hey, it's from Dumbledore!"

 

She looked up to see him unrolling a slim piece of parchment, and Ron leaning forward, his eyebrows raised in excitement. She could feel her own brows furrowing in confusion as she watched the boys. Professor Dumbledore had not yet called her back to his office, though she was relatively certain Harry had been successful in getting what he needed from Professor Slughorn. She realized suddenly that it had been some time since their last meeting, and she wondered what had been keeping the Headmaster—and why he would have chosen Harry over her in that moment. 

 

"He wants me to go to his office as quick as I can." Harry said, his voice soft yet excited. The paper inched back into a roll, hanging limply in Harry's hand as he stared at Ron. 

 

Ron stared back, his mouth gaping a bit, "Blimey, you don't reckon? He hasn't found?"

 

"Hasn't found what?" Evelyn interrupted, forcefully reminding them of her presence. She had been wondering if it’d be appropriate to accompany Harry to the Headmaster’s office to see if he’d have a moment to speak that evening, but if he’d found something that they were this excited about then she knew she couldn’t ask. As she thought it through, something in her gut instinctively tightened. Maybe it was the look on Ron’s face, which she was realizing wasn’t exactly excitement, but she felt what the Headmaster had found couldn't be good—whatever it was. A creeping fear settled over her, increased by Harry's deliberate pause in response to her question. 

 

"I-I don't have time to explain." Was all Harry could muster. He began to gather up his Herbology materials, shoving them into his bag and handing it off to Ron to be deposited in their dormitory. "I'm sorry, Evie." 

 

"Harry! You can't be serious—where are you going?" She stood up, walking with him toward the portrait hole without being invited. 

 

"I'm going to Dumbledore's office."

 

"What does he have? Why can't you tell me?"

 

"Because it's complicated, and he needs me right now—but I want to tell you." He paused outside the portrait hole, leaving the Fat Lady hanging out towards the wall. It was quieter and darker in the corridor. The light spilling out from the common room cast strange shadows across Harry's face, but even then she could see his eyes were filled with sincerity. He looked nearly pleading. He reached for her hands, taking both of them in his and squeezing them gently. "As soon as I get back."

 

"Can I help?" She didn't know what else to say. She knew she couldn't make him stay, and though the fear was moving deeper and deeper into her gut, she couldn't articulate it. She didn't want to be overbearing. He had told her how that tendency in Ginny had made him feel, and she didn't want to muck up the first chance she had been given to trust him. 

 

"You can't. Not more than you already have—you know my dueling is better now, and you've prepared me for nearly anything." His lips quirked up on one side, half smiling and half smirking. 

 

"So, it's dangerous then?" Her voice sounded small, and she hated it. 

 

He didn't respond, which was all the response she needed. Instead, he said cautiously, "As soon as I get back, you’ll know everything." He reached up to tuck a loose curl behind her ear, and planted a quick kiss on her lips. "Now get back in there and finish that Herbology essay. I'll need something to copy before class tomorrow." 



Evelyn walked stiffly through the common room, passing Ron without acknowledgment and heading straight up the girls' staircase to her dormitory. She wasn’t sure where Hermione was, but the rest of the girls were in the library studying for their upcoming exams and she was glad to have the room to herself.

 

She lowered herself onto her bed, reaching down to take off her shoes before deciding against it. The fear in her gut was still twisting menacingly, and she knew she couldn't relax. Shoes still on, she brought her feet onto her quilt and inched back towards her pillows. Her eyes weren't fixed on anything in particular, and she felt them begin to glaze over as she lost herself in thought. Harry was going to meet Dumbledore—who had something or knew where something was—and somehow this was dangerous. She knew that there were dark objects all over the wizarding world, like the cursed opals that Katie Bell had touched, and she couldn’t fathom what Professor Dumbledore might have found or how Harry was meant to help him with it. She didn’t know anything really, which drove her crazy. She hated not knowing the rest. And she resented the Headmaster for not asking for her, for not telling her what Harry had gotten from Professor Slughorn like he’d promised. What if the two were connected? What if she could have been helpful, and Harry just didn’t know because she hadn’t told him about the prophecy yet? 

 

Without more details or directions, she was left with a wild imagination, a horrible feeling, and nothing logical to counter the two. She racked her brain for facts that would make her feel better. Harry was with Albus Dumbledore, one of the greatest wizards alive. Professor Dumbledore cared for Harry, and she knew he would do everything in his power to protect him. Harry, too, was a great wizard who could handle himself. He was excellent at disarming, quick on his feet, and braver than anyone she’d ever met. These fluttered through her mind, but anxiety still gnawed at her. 

 

Does Harry not trust me? 

 

The thought was a lightening rod among the storm clouds rumbling through her mind. They hadn't been together long. In fact, they were barely anything. After agreeing they both wanted more than stolen moments in the corridor, they’d never really talked about it again. They had been too busy bantering over meals, kissing between dueling sessions, and laughing under trees near the lake with their friends to put a label on it. Evelyn was certain they had something more concrete than the casual thing that Hermione and Christian had, but they certainly didn’t have anything as official as George and Marie. Could Harry even be expected to trust her—this non-girlfriend—then? She had felt he had, that their trust had been implicit and implied, but perhaps that had been a dangerous assumption. If she were being honest, she herself hadn't trusted him with everything yet. She still hadn't told him the prophecy. 

 

Did that mean she didn't trust him, or did that simply mean she hadn't had the courage to pop their new relationship bubble, which had made her feel weightless for the first time in nearly a year? 

 

These questions, muddled with fear and anxiety, beat wildly through her head. She tried to focus on anything else, but failed. She tried to remember that only a few minutes ago she had been in the common room with Harry, enjoying a perfectly normal evening over homework, but that didn’t help. Her stomach ached, and she wished she could tell someone all the thoughts that were blowing around her head. Unfortunately, the one person she wanted to tell was Harry—and that wasn’t an option. 

 

A small part of her resented how wildly her heart and her gut had run off, thinking bitterly that she shouldn't have such intense feelings for a guy so quickly. Her brain offered feeble attempts at logic. She had liked him for nearly the entire school year, and he had been the first person that she felt she could be herself with—but this rationale was batted away again and again by the horrible feeling in her gut. Her inner dialogue walked circles around itself, the same arguments rising up and fizzling out again and again. She dreaded the night. She'd never make it through. 

 

 

The creak of the door eventually broke up her thoughts, and Evelyn's eyes darted to the figure leaning into the room through the partially opened door. She was relieved to see it was Hermione, and she half-whispered a hollow greeting to her friend. 

 

"Harry's been by—he was quite serious. I think you need to come down to the common room with me."

 

"Is he back?" Evelyn hoped her intonation wasn't too desperate sounding. 

 

"No," her chest deflated at Hermione's words, "He came back to get a-a cloak. He’s going somewhere with Professor Dumbledore." 

 

"Well then, what's the deal?" 

 

Hermione's mouth was a thin line, and Evelyn felt the anxiety in her gut twist deeper as her friend said, "It'll be easier if you come with me."

 

Evelyn nodded, inching towards the edge of the bed and taking a sweater that had been draped over her bedside table. Though it was warm during the days, the spring evenings in Scotland were cool and the castle air almost cold. Shrugging it on, she followed Hermione obediently out of the room and down the stairwell. She was led to a quiet corner of the common room, where Ron had stretched a large piece of parchment across an abandoned table. Ginny, Neville, and Luna Lovegood stood beside him, consulting one another in hushed tones. The common room was still relatively occupied, but most students were focused intently on their work. The room had a studious air to it. A few hours ago, it had been a pleasant environment. Now, everything felt off-kilter and Evelyn was uneasy. As she approached with Hermione, Ginny's eyes moved over her, the redhead's lips flattening into a hard line. 

 

"Right," Ron said by way of greeting, following his sister's gaze and nodding briefly at Evie. "Do you think anyone else will come, Hermione?"

 

"I'm not sure. I pushed the signal through twice, but they could be headed to the Room of Requirement since that was where we used to meet. Luna—what made you come here instead?"

 

"The princeps, of course. They led me right to you." The Ravenclaw replied in a dreamy, yet authoritative tone. 

 

"Right," Ron repeated, looking warily at Hermione. She bit her lip and shook her head in response. Instead of adding anything, Ron turned his eyes to the parchment. Evelyn did, too, and for the first time realized what was laid out before them. It was an entire blueprint of Hogwarts, and most of the grounds. Fascinatingly enough, there were small marks moving across the page, each flagged with a name. 

 

Her eyes followed a pair—Seamus Finnegan and Dean Thomas—which were moving towards Gryffindor Tower. Inside, she saw marks for herself, Hermione, Ron, Ginny, Neville, and Luna clustered together towards the corner furtherest from the door. The map, so meticulously laid out, was brilliant in its ability to track movement. She watched as the Seamus and Dean dots moved into the common room, her eyes seeing them on paper as her ears heard their approach. With accuracy that advanced, it could only be one thing.

 

"Is this enchanted with a Homonculous Charm?" Evie gasped, nudging her way closer and placing her hand on the worn parchment.

Ron, who clearly was uncertain, made an expression that immediately showed his deference to Hermione, who caught Evelyn's eye with her enthusiastic nodding. 

 

"It's done up perfectly," Evelyn said in awe, her eyes moving to the library where Serenity and Christian were seated at their regular table, presumably working on the same essay that she'd been completing earlier with Harry. 

 

Hermione opened her mouth to respond, but Ron interrupted impatiently, "We can admire the map tomorrow. Right now, I think we should do what Harry asked."

 

"What was that?" Evelyn asked eagerly. Out of the corner of her eye, she could see Ginny make a face and cross her arms over her chest.

 

"Patrol the halls; stay on the lookout for Malfoy." Ron responded resolutely.

 

Turning her eyes back to the map, Evelyn's scanned the Slytherian common room and nearby halls. "Have you seen Malfoy anywhere yet?"

 

"No," Ron admitted, grunting disappointedly.

 

"What about my sister? If he's around, she won't be far from him. Not after what happened in the bathroom."

 

"She's not anywhere either."

 

"Harry thinks that means they're in the Room of Requirement. That's his theory at least." Hermione said, pointing to a corner of the map where the room should have been but wasn't. "We should send a group there to keep watch for Malfoy and your sister."


"Another group should patrol the dungeons, and get as close to the common room as you can. In case Harry's wrong or they slip past us." Evelyn said. She swore she heard Ginny mutter something under her breath, and she cast a disapproving look at the younger Gryffindor that resulted in a returned scowl. 


Hermione ignored or missed the exchange, offering herself for the dungeons. "I can take the long way, and check most of the corridors on my way down. I'm a Prefect, so it's unlikely anyone will stop me."


"I'll go with you," Luna volunteered, smiling in her soft manner.


Hermione nodded. "I think the rest of you should go to the Room of Requirement. If Malfoy and Elizabeth are there, you'll need everyone you can get. And, Ron's a Prefect, too. So, he has a bit of authority if a professor finds you all out this late."


"We should get Serenity and Christian. They'll want to help."


Hermione nodded, and Ron shot Evelyn a grim smile, adding tersely, "Welcome to Dumbledore's Army."

 


 

Evelyn's head was still spinning as she moved deftly through the stacks, her neck craning around each corner as if her sister or Draco Malfoy may be lurking behind any of them. Logically, she knew they wouldn't—couldn't —be because they weren't on the map. Or, at least they hadn't been when she'd parted with Ron and the others. She hoped that fact wouldn't change before she had a chance to find Serenity and Christian. The two Ravenclaws were some of the smartest people she'd ever encountered, and she knew that if Harry's fears were well-founded that the newly reunited D.A. would need them.


Her feet found their way to the table before her brain realized they were there, and she stared dumbly at Serenity and Christian for a moment before speaking. 


"I'm surprised to see you this far from Harry's face," Serenity chided in greeting, "I've barely seen you take in air all week." 


"Something's happened," was all she was able to blurt out, and her face must have explained the rest because the grin dropped from Serenity's face and Christian's brow furrowed intently. "We need your help. If you want to." She bit her lip nervously for a moment before adding, "I won't demand it of you. It could be dangerous—but I couldn't go into this without asking you, too."


"Explain." Christian said softly. His tone was more encouraging than demanding, and she appreciated it.


Nodding her agreement, she replied, "Alright—but not here. We've got to go out into the corridor or find an empty classroom. It's not safe here."


The Ravenclaws packed up hurriedly, and followed Evelyn back through the stacks, their feet quick and light across the old stone floors. In the corridor, Evelyn pulled out her wand and muttered an enchantment. Then, she added another.


"We can talk here." She declared, more to herself then to her two friends, who shared a nearly identical look, reminiscent of bewilderment and excitement. Then, she began, telling them first about Harry's mysterious note and his refusal to divulge details, and then, about Hermione coming for her, the map, and the army that she had recently learned her boyfriend—or whatever he was—had led. 


"I knew it!" Christian announced, elbowing Serenity as if to remind her of something, but her eyes never left Evelyn, who had already continued on, telling them next about Draco Malfoy's and her sister's absence from the map, and, lastly, about their plan to stake out the Room of Requirement and the dungeons until Harry and Dumbledore returned.


"If Harry's right," Evelyn concluded, "Then something terrible could happen here. Tonight."


"How could anyone get into the castle? It's protected." Serenity said, her tone simple and serious.

 

"I don't know," Evelyn admitted, "But I trust Harry, and I think that if anyone could get in, it would be because of Ellie." The grim feeling in her belly had expanded and, as they stood there in the corridor hashing things out, Evelyn felt exposed. She moved her hand to the inside pocket of her cloak and pulled out her wand.

 

Serenity's mouth was a hard line, and her eyes swept the corridor sharply before coming back to Christian, and then Evelyn.

 

"I hope you're wrong." She said softly, reaching into her own cloak and pulling out her wand.

 

"I hope so, too." Evie said softly, though her instincts were screaming that she wasn't. 

 

"Show us the way." Christian said, producing his own wand. He looked almost childlike in the torch light, and she suppressed a smile that felt warranted but out of place in the moment. In all the months she had known him, Christian had voiced several times that he wanted to fight, in some capacity, against the Dark Lord. He had been eager to study, to progress, and to get qualified. He was brilliant in the classroom, strong in his morality, and eager to contribute. She had long thought over how to introduce him to the Order without giving too much away. 

 

Serenity, on the other hand, had been more reserved in her rebellion. Though she was against everything the Dark Lord stood for and was repulsed by the headlines that had plagued them all year—disappearances, torture, murders—she wasn't sure that there was anything for her to contribute. Her spellcasting and defense were strong, she was astute and highly critical, but she wasn't necessarily combative.  She worried, too, about the ramifications of the war, the state of the ministry, and her mother. Her thinking was highly political, and the struggle between the theoretical and the call to do what was right was written plainly on her face in that moment.

 

Evelyn reached for her friend, grasping her wrist and forcing Serenity to make eye contact with her. "Are you sure? You don't have to come."

 

Something moved behind Serenity's hawkish eyes, as if a part of her was clicking into place. She replied nervously, "I don’t think I can just wait to see what happens."

 

That was enough. Evie motioned for the pair to follow her, and they made their way quickly towards the location where Ron would be waiting with the others. The halls were long, and the path to the the Room of Requirement felt endless. Evelyn's heart seemed to beat in sync with the rapid pattern of their footsteps on the ancient flagstone. Every corner brought uncertainty and fear that whatever horrible thing Harry thought might happen had already happened. She wished she had the map. She wished Ron had agreed to come with her to the library. She wished Hermione wasn't in the dungeons. 

 

Nothing has happened yet, she reassured herself, calm down. Her hand was sweaty, and she tightened her grip on her wand. She needed to concentrate, to have a level head. If she didn't, her dueling skills would be no use to anyone. She took a deep breath, recognizing the series of paintings on the wall as they turned the corner and knowing they were close. 

 

She could remember a time when she had been proud and oblivious, when she had felt as though nothing could phase her, but, as her eyes adjusted to the new corridor, she remembered too what it had been like to stumble over her mother’s dead body. To be so unwittingly struck by death, to be so unprepared for a new reality—and then to have to accept that reality completely: this was a feeling that stuck with a person. This was a feeling from which a person never recovered. Instead, it wore down a space in your soul and took up residence. She'd never feel surprise like that again because she would always fear it's coming. 

 

Around the next corner, she saw Ron, Ginny, and Neville, who had all snapped attentively towards the oncoming sound of footsteps, wands raised. Ron and Neville lowered theirs immediately as they recognized the trio. Ginny took a beat, looking angry. Evelyn had a feeling the younger girl would always look at her that way. 

 

"Thanks for coming." Ron said stiffly to Christian and Serenity, shifting his eyes down towards the other end of the corridor and back again. 

 

Briefly, Evie considered how out of place Ron looked without Harry or Hermione by his side. She'd grown so use to him as an addition—a plus one in her time with Hermione or in her new relationship with Harry. But, as he began to run over the plan he had formulated, she realized how capable he was without his best friends and how much he contributed in his own way. 

 

"Neville, Ginny, and I have scouted out the hall. It's deserted, and this time of night I bet it'll stay that way. We're far enough from the library that we won't get much foot traffic when it closes in a half hour, and we're not close enough to any of the common rooms for students to wander this way. Prefects will be starting their patrols soon, but I doubt they’ll pass through here. It's known for being a dead spot. Typically, only Hermione insists on sweeping this one."

 

"Right, what can we do?" Christian asked, looking nearly eager. 

 

"I think it's best for a few of us to stay here, and the others to flank either end of the hallway in case Malfoy's in there and he gets past us. 

 

"I was thinking Ginny and I would stand guard here. Evelyn and Neville can take one end, you and Serenity can take the other."

 

"I think I should be here with you, Ron. In case my sister's in there. I'm the only one here that can take her on in a duel—no offense." Evelyn said, casting an apologetic look at Ginny that was not appreciated. 

 

"I don't think you should be in the first line of defense," Ron replied, for the first time sounding uncertain.

 

"Ron, don't—you know I can handle her. I might be one of the best—"

 

Ron, whose cheekbones were made more angular by the blush that had appeared on them, looked uncomfortable as he cut her off with a rushed mutter. "Harry told me to protect you."

 

Beside him, his sister growled. Ginny's face was white, and her lips were strained into a thin pucker. She looked like her mother.

 

"What?" Evelyn asked dumbly.

 

Ron, casting a glance at his sister, replied, "Evie, don't make me repeat it. I mean, you can't be surprised. Just–just do this for me, please."

 

The anxious, foreboding feeling in her stomach was suddenly supplanted by a furious thing that trampled through her. Through gritted teeth, she replied, "Elizabeth—she always goes right, when she duels. She can't help it." Then she stalked down the hallway, Neville sending an uncomfortable look at the crowd before following a few steps behind her. 

 

 

By the time Evie reached the turn in the corridor, the furious feeling had unfurled, and she felt undermined. Her mind was running wild with thoughts: she had been the one to train Harry, the one he had sought out (just weeks after meeting her) to teach him, the one he'd confided in. He had even gone so far as to admit that this ability to protect herself and her confidence in combat was one of the things that had attracted him to her. And, after a few kisses and some feelings, he had seemingly forgotten all of that and felt that he had the right to ask Ron to protect her. Ron, she thought with an internal scoff, who could barely complete his Transfiguration homework without Hermione berating him!

 

When Neville rounded the corner, she exploded. "How dare he!"

 

Neville, who looked sympathetic but uneasy, placed a clammy hand on her shoulder and said only, "You have to be quieter, Evie."

 

She clamped her mouth shut, her neck hot and her eyes narrowing at Neville despite the fact that she knew he was right and, worse yet, that he didn't deserve the brunt of her anger. She gave a harsh nod in response, muttering, "Just you wait. When he gets back."

 

She'd spend the time they waited there, standing guard, thinking up all the different ways she could torture Harry. Perhaps she'd transfigured him into a cat and keep him for the summer—or transfigured his broom into a toothpick and snap it in half. 

 

Her mind was still dreaming up scenarios that, each time, ended with Harry apologizing profusely for considering her a damsel in distress and underestimating her independence and aptitude when it happened. The door appeared, banging against the wall determinedly. There, in plain view, stood Draco and Elizabeth. He was clutching her hand with his left and, in his right, held a horrifying shriveled thing that Evelyn couldn't quite comprehend from her distance. They saw Ron and Ginny instantly as there weren't many places to hide, and without so much as a word Elizabeth threw something out of her cloak. Immediately, darkness erupted from the spot, moving down the corridor with terrific speed. Evelyn tried to cast a shield charm to protect them from it, but it blew threw the spell like a black fog. They were blind. The darkness was so deep, it felt as if God had doused the sun.

Beside her, where she was certain Neville was, she heard a tentative voice cast Lumos, but nothing happened.

 

Evelyn, dumb and uncertain of what else to do, tried the same spell. Nothing.

 

"Neville?" Her voice sounded foreign to her in the darkness. 

 

"I'm here," he replied, and she felt rigid fingers fumble at her shoulder awkwardly. She seized them with her own hand, locking her grip in his. She wouldn't lose him, if she could. The silence was overwhelming, and Evelyn could feel her ears straining just as much as her eyes. Then Neville's voice came again, this time softer. "I don't think they saw us."

 

"We have two choices: wait and see if they come this way, or start to move further away and see if we can eventually find the light. I don't think this was a spell."

 

"It's not. It's from Fred and George's joke shop. I can't remember what it's called, but I’ve seen them use it before."

 

"How long does it last?"

 

"I-I don’t remember,” Neville stammered guiltily, “Knowing them, it could be hours or days. They never do things by halves."

 

She smiled, though no one could see her. "Okay. Wait or move then?"

 

Neville didn’t have a chance to respond. A shuffling sound greeted them, signaling that someone was headed their way. The pace was assured even in the darkness as if they could see somehow, and Evelyn knew from the stride who it was before Malfoy spoke. 

 

"Once everyone's together, I'm going to the tower to cast it. Elizabeth will take you from there."

 

Evelyn shifted her weight further into the wall, pulling Neville's hand back with her until she felt his body align with hers. She tried to slow her breathing, and despite the darkness closed her eyes. She listened as intently as she could. 

 

"Someone's sounding confident." A different voice, unfamiliar and nasally, said snidely. 

 

"My plan's worked perfectly so far, so you're right I'm bloody confident." Malfoy spoke again, this time with more venom. "Watch your step, Amycus."
 
The voices grew softer as they drifted further down the corridor. They were safe for now, Evelyn thought. Neville's grip relaxed within her grasp. She listened again, trying to discern sounds in the silence. It felt like decades before they heard anything. 

 

A tinny clank cut the air followed by an exclaimed expletive. The sound was close, followed by a shuffling noise and a shush. 

 

Hesitantly, Evelyn called, "Ron? Is that you?" 

 

The shuffling abruptly stopped, and several beats of silence fell between her question and the answer. 

 

"Evie?" The voice came, sounding more familiar. 

 

"And Neville, yeah." She replied. 

 

"I think they've all gone. Ginny and I heard them come by, but nothing will light. Malfoy was leading them with the Hand of Glory. They could be anywhere by now. We've got to go."

 

"Where's Christian and Serenity?" 

 

"I-I don't know. We never heard them come our way. They must’ve gone the other way to find light." 

 

"At least they went in the opposite direction of the Death Eaters." Neville piped up beside her. 

 

"Yeah, lucky us." Ginny finally spoke, her voice so sardonic she could imagine the youngest Weasley's expression despite the blinding darkness. 

 

"We've got to go." Ron repeated, this time more urgently. "Hermione and Luna are out there, and they don't know what's happened. They don't have the map. They could be in danger." 

 

"Ron? Do you think you can find me and Neville? We're against the wall. If you can, we can follow the wall until we reach light. It's the—"

 

Something thudded heavily into her side, cutting her off and forcing air out of her lungs awkwardly. She coughed, startled.

 

"That's me," she wheezed and Ron sheepishly apologized once for hitting her and then again and again as he fumbled into her in his search for the wall. Eventually, she felt his body move to the stone beside her. 

 

As soon as she was sure they were in position, she gave Neville's hand a squeeze. "Lead the way, Neville." 

 

They moved as quickly as they could, but even that speed didn't feel fast enough. Their progress was slow, and Evelyn felt they had walked several yards before the darkness began to ebb. The light, however, urged them on and eventually they were trotting forward. In her panic, she couldn't quite tell where in the castle they were, but, surprisingly, Neville seemed to know, quickening his pace as light fully broke across the scene. 

 

"This way!" He said confidently, gesturing to the next right turn. They took the corner sharp, nearly running now. 

 

"Wotcher, you lot!" A new voice greeted them as they came into the new corridor, and Evelyn focused her eyes, which were still adjusting, on a crop of wildly colored hair. Nymphadora Tonks stood, wand arm out, with Remus Lupin and her Aunt Demeter. 

 

"What have you four been up to?" Demeter asked, her brow raised in response to what must have been shaken expressions across all of their face. She reached her arm out to Evelyn, taking her niece by the shoulder in an attempt to either slow her down or keep her in place. Evelyn had nearly kept going, certain that Serenity, Christian, and Hermione were already in danger or would be soon. She needed to find them. She needed to find Elizabeth.

 

"Harry thought Malfoy had found a way to get Death Eaters into the castle— he was right," Ron rushed through breathlessly, and Evelyn was grateful he'd taken the liberty of explaining because her brain was running too wild to formulate sentences. Ron continued, "They got past us. Darkness powder. We were following them."

 

The muscle in Remus's jaw visibly tensed, and the knuckles on his wand hand tightened into white knobs. His eyes went first to Tonks and then to Demeter. The women each shared a knowing look with him in turn, as if this had been the exact explanation they'd expected. 

 

"I think it best for you four to return to Gryffindor Tower. To keep all the students there safe." Remus said measuredly.

 

"No bloody way." Ron fired back, "Hermione's out there. She's in the dungeons with Luna."

 

"And our other friends from Ravenclaw. They were separated from us, but they know the Death Eaters are here. They won't just go back to their common room. They'll fight. And we should be there with them." Neville joined, looking just as determined as Ron. 

 

"Harry, too. He left with Dumbledore, but he'll be back. We need to make sure the castle is safe for them when they return." Ginny supplied a third reason, and Evelyn tried to ignore the hot feeling that crept under her collar as Ginny spoke about keeping Harry safe. 

 

Evelyn stumbled over her reason, the three adults turning their eyes expectantly to her as if she, too, needed to contribute something or she'd be forced back into the common room. "Elizabeth was with Malfoy. She's behind this too. I-I have to stop her."

 

A dark glint shone in her aunt's eyes as Evelyn looked up at her. Both Demeter and Minerva had been fully briefed on her examination of the prophecy and her meetings with Professor Dumbledore. Evie knew instantly that Demeter understood what had gone unsaid: Evie was the only one who could take on Ellie. Neither of them said any more, and they each knew there wasn't room for further argument. They didn't have the time. 
 
"Let them in on the fun, Remus. It's about time." Tonks said finally, sending a wink towards Ron and nudging her elbow into Remus's side playfully. His neck flushed, but he knew that he had lost this argument.

 

"Stay close," was his response. "Defend yourselves only. Don't provoke them. Remember: this isn't class, this isn't practice. They'll kill you, and they'll think it's fun."

 

With that as their pep talk, each student tightened their grip on their wands and followed the Order members down the corridor towards the main stairwell. As they moved, Evelyn's head was spinning through everything. She was thinking about her sister, and if this was the night the prophecy had hinted at. Would they duel? Would one of them die so the other could live? She was thinking about Christian and Serenity, and where that corridor led, and where she thought they would go—and, worse yet, whose path they might cross. She was thinking about Harry, and where he had gone with Dumbledore, and how much time they had to get the castle in order. How many did they have to face? How many students would be out of bed at this time? Where would they start?

 

Something clicked into place, and as they reached the top of the stairs and Remus led them down the first few steps, she stopped and shouted, "No, we've got to go the other way. Towards the astronomy tower."

 

"The tower?" Tonks asked, bewildered in tone and look.

 

"When they passed us—in the dark—Malfoy said he needed to go to the tower. It's the highest point, and it's the one closest to here. That has to be what he was talking about." 

 

"That's right! He said he was going there to cast it." Neville said in agreement.

 

"It?" Remus's voice reached a wary pitch.

 

Evelyn furrowed her brow, replying, "He didn't say what it was, just that he was going there to cast—"

 

"The Dark Mark. That's got to be what they were referring to."

 

"But, Remus, they only cast it when—" Demeter never finished her sentence, but she didn't have to. Evelyn knew what she meant; they all did. The words alone brought back the image of the shimmering mark hovering over the hole in her mother's bedroom, casting shadows across her still frame.

 

Before any more could be said, they turned on the stairs and began to move quickly through the castle towards the tower. 

 

As they approached the corridor that led to the tower’s stairwell, they could hear raised voices. One was almost petulant in its rebuttals, the other condescending and dumb. The first, Evelyn realized as they slowed, was Draco Malfoy's.

 

"You haven't listened to the plan—you've disregarded me entirely."

 

"Gibbon's already beat you to it, Draco. Just let him have it. You don't always get what you want, especially when your daddy isn't here to give it to you." The second voice replied.

 

Then a new voice interrupted, almost saccharine in its sweetness. "Amycus, why don't you shut your mouth and listen to your superiors for once?"

 

That was Elizabeth's voice. Not only did Evelyn recognize it, but she could tell her aunt did as well by the stillness that fell over her.

 

"That Mudblood Ravenclaw deserved it!"

 

Evelyn's heart twisted, her mind jumping to Serenity.

 

"Not every bastard child is a Mudblood, you idiot, and if you don’t start listening you can be sure our Lord will hear how your insubordinate behavior jeopardized Draco’s plan. He’s expecting a full report from me."

 

Serenity, whose father had abandoned her as a baby and whose mother hadn't shared a single detail about him with her, including her blood status, couldn't have been the only potential-Mudblood Ravenclaw at Hogwarts in 1997, but, Evelyn reasoned, she was most likely the only one who had been out of bed that night. 

 

Something seemed to possess her as she reached that conclusion, and before she could gain control of it, she moved boldly around the corner towards the small crowd of Death Eaters that stood vigil near the entrance to the tower's stairs. At first, they didn't seem to notice her.

 

And then, Draco drawled a single word, nonchalant in his tone but not in his body: "Company." 

 

Evelyn cast a quick Transfiguration spell, aimed at the one who must have been Amycus, but it was quickly deflected. She advanced, shooting off another and another. It was clear Draco was searching for something as she moved, the other Order members coming in behind her, but he never found it. He still clutched the shriveled, horrible thing that Ron had known the name of. She aimed her wand at it, blasting it out of his hands.

 

"Where is Serenity?"

 

"How big of you, Evie. Always cared so much for your friends," Elizabeth chided, looking annoyed. She had her own wand drawn, but she hadn't cast anything. Amycus on the other hand was giggling, firing haphazardly at the advancing Order members and students.

 

For some reason, this nonchalance, this air of boredom and inconvenience, was the thing that tipped Evelyn over the edge. She gritted her teeth, turning her wand towards her sister, and growled, "Fuck you, Ellie."

 

That was when everything went to shit. The corridor exploded with spells, as Order members took on Death Eaters and members of Dumbledore's Army took on Slytherians. Evie's eyes never left her sister's as they carved a space out of the corridor for themselves. 

 

"Alarte Ascendare!" Elizabeth said, only just missing her sister and instead launching a suit of armor into the air behind her. It landed near two men who were fighting viciously on the floor—one who seemed to be attempting to bite the other. Evelyn couldn't chance another glance to confirm the sight. Her mind was racing for a spell that Elizabeth wouldn't suspect, one that she hadn't defended from her countless times before. 

 

"Something on your mind, Evie?" Her voice called out casually, as she shot another hex towards her. 

 

Evelyn deflected it, gritting her teeth and casting, "Immobulous!"

 

Elizabeth's wand cut through the air, repelling the charm. She laughed, her wand still held high and her arm long and elegant. "Second-year charms? You've lost your touch."

 

She quickly retorted with the first hex that came to mind, but as the spell left her lips a brute force knocked Evelyn to the side, sending her spell careening towards Ron. It barely missed him. A man was knocking his way through the crowd, heading towards the staircase and, taking it in leaps, quickly disappearing from view. In that moment of disruption, Elizabeth took the opportunity to shoot a cutting curse at her sister. Evelyn's attention was caught by the sound of her sister's voice, but she wasn't quick enough. The curse slammed into the side of her head, and a sharp pain shot across her cheek and ear. 

 

"You always were second-rate," Elizabeth sneered, and in that moment, Evelyn was struck by the terrifying and monstrous expression that had twisted her sister’s face. Elizabeth had always been beautiful, but now she looked like a harpy with harsh lines cutting angles across her face and hard eyes. When had this happened? The transformation was so subtle but consuming that Evelyn wondered if it had started years ago. Each new line, carving crude anger into the youthful face of her twin sister, had taken its time to fully root itself, coming into being so slowly that no one had realized. 

 

Evelyn pushed down the terror she felt and cast the knee-reversing hex, spitting back vehemently, "You always were such a disappointment." Her spell didn't hit her sister, but as Elizabeth moved to the left to avoid it, she was knocked by the man who had disappeared up the staircase a moment ago as he returned to the scene. He was struck almost immediately by the killing curse, and his body began to fall into Elizabeth, who gave an angry, shocked cry as she stumbled and tried to regain her balance. 

 

That moment was all Evie needed. She quickly cast a stunning spell, hitting her sister squarely in the chest. As Elizabeth's body locked into place and fell rigidly to the ground, a victorious grin spread across Evelyn's face and she took a moment to waggle her eyebrows at her sister, whose upturned face was frozen in its furious lines. 

 

She pivoted, taking in the rest of the scene. As she did so, the grin fell from her face. A red headed man was bleeding on the floor, violent tears across his face and arms. Her heart beat wildly as she tried to ascertain whether or not it was Ron. She moved quickly to his side, using her wand to perform a few simple first aid charms. They didn't do much, but the man groaned beneath her wand and she knew two things: he was alive, and he wasn't Ron Weasley. She tented him in a shield charm, knowing it was too risky to move him, and turned her eyes back to the battle. 

 

A massive Death Eater was firing off jinxes hap-hazardously, as if it was his first day off the train. Tonks seemed to be attempting to engage him, in an effort perhaps to contain his fire more than anything, and was only just succeeding. Ron, Ginny, Lupin, and both of her aunts were each paired with a Death Eater who seemed intent on fighting. It was clear other Order members had joined the fight at some point, but it had only allowed them to match the Death Eaters body for body. The duels were intently raging, and from her standpoint, it looked like many of the Order members were waning. 

 

Despite the melee, her eyes landed on a pair of feet not quite obscured by a nearby suit of armor. Based on the sneakers alone, she knew it to be a student and, volleying a few spells over her shoulder to protect herself, she took off towards them to see if they were okay. It was Neville, who grimaced in pain as she arrived, swearing softly under his breath.

 

"Nothing serious," he grunted as she looked at him questioningly, her eyes landing immediately on a deep gash and burn across his thigh. Whatever curse it had been had seared off his jeans, leaving the wound.  "Hurts is all."

 

Evelyn quickly cast a numbing spell, smiling a little. "That should help with the pain, just until we can get you to Madam Pomfrey." 

 

"What about you?" Neville asked, reaching up to her face and wiping something from it. He pulled his fingers back to show her, and she noticed they were smeared with her blood.

 

Evelyn was shocked to see those red fingers in front of her face, but she remembered her training. She forced herself to remain calm. "I'll be okay. Can you get up?"

 

She let Neville lean some of his weight on to her as he stood, but as soon as he was up, he was steady on his feet. More commotion erupted in the corridor and new Death Eaters appeared. Neville was quickly trusted to bear the full weight of his body as Evelyn left his side with her wand raised. 

 

Surprisingly, however, the new arrivals didn't engage. Evelyn fired a hex, but they simply blocked the advance and kept moving past the Order members and their counterparts towards the staircase. Whatever was up there was important. She needed to get up there. 

 

Neville must have had the same thought because, before she could speak, he was moving. Half limping, half running, he catapulted himself into the wake of the Death Eaters. As his foot reached the edge of the stairwell, his body was thrown back into the air. He seemed to somersault gracefully for a moment before colliding with the suit of armor that had previously been his haven and crumpling to the ground just behind her. 

 

"Neville!" Evelyn exclaimed, dropping back down to his side as if she'd never left it. "Neville, are you okay?"

 

He was unconscious, and she wildly pulled for his arm, pushing his shoulder back and freeing his wrist from the twists of his body. She tried to calm herself, breathing purposefully as she felt around for his pulse. It was there, quietly murmuring below her fingertips. 

 

She thought for a moment, knowing she shouldn't move his body too much in case there was some damage she would exacerbate. Instead, she conjured a brace and fit it deftly around Neville’s neck. Then, she stood and surveyed the hall again. A quiet rage began to bubble inside her. Despite the thoroughness of her training at the Academy, she was realizing that everything was different in battle. There were no partners. There was no decorum. And there was no fair fight. The individual duels raged on around her as she tried to figure out where to assert herself. One Death Eater was so aggressively attacking Ginny that it nearly looked like she was dancing. Nearby her two aunts were each holding their own, but there was a shadow drawn across both of their faces that betrayed their form. They were tired, or tiring, and many of the other Order members fighting in the hall shared the same look.

 

So, she took pointed steps toward her aunts, inserting herself into the fray with a quick "Impedimenta," which took Demeter's sparring partner by surprise. She was knocked backwards into the wall and crumpled in a heap on the floor. 

 

Demeter shot her a relieved look.

 

"There's some kind of barrier set at the tower. It threw Neville back." Evelyn explained quickly, knowing Demeter wouldn't need more context than that.

 

"Right. We've got to find a way up there. I'll free up Remus." And with that, her younger aunt turned to her right to aid Remus, leaving Evelyn to join her older aunt. It was more difficult aiding Minerva because she was casting nonverbally, so rather than taking an aggressive stance Evelyn decided to move defensively, blocking spells and casting shields. She kept her casting to verbal spells only so that her aunt could hear her intentions and adjust appropriately. 

 

Suddenly, a black whirl came through the hall. Professor Snape was there, and Evelyn quickly shot a shield around him to protect him from the fray. He sent a sharp look her way, nearly sneering as one of the large wizard's spells knocked against the protective barrier. The Defense Against the Dark Arts professor was moving at a quick clip, intent on ascending the staircase. Before Evelyn could call out a warning to prevent him from receiving the same fate as Neville, Snape reached the stairwell and, to her surprise, glided through unscathed. 

 

She heard her younger aunt urging Remus on, and saw him break away to follow her professor to the top of the tower—and was shocked to find he was thrown back.

 

Evelyn didn't have time to think on it more as a spell went whizzing past her head, and she turned her attention back to the wizard her older aunt was sparring. She refocused her efforts, losing herself in the battle. Spell after spell, the volley continued back and forth. She felt grit rising up from her stomach like bile, and was reaffirmed in her skill and determination by her aunt's slow, but steady success.

 

The scene changed suddenly, however, when a stream of Death Eaters cut down the steps and through the corridor, taking their compatriots with them—including Elizabeth, who must have been revived by one of them because she was suddenly upright. She was clasping hands with Draco, looking slightly befuddled but keeping pace with his stride. She gave Evelyn a vile smirk as she rushed past, her confusion clearing and transforming into delighted. 

 

Anger twisted up inside Evelyn, and without thinking she abandoned her aunt and pursued the group. Before she could quite close the gap between them, however, a man was sent flying through the air into the wall just beside her, nearly taking her with him. Next, a dark-haired mass that had to be Harry flew past, zooming past her in as he chased the same group she had been attempting to follow. She heard Ginny exclaim his name, but neither of them paused. Harry was running with everything he had, and she willed her legs to move faster. 

 

She was nearly closing in on him when a blast sent pieces of wall showering down between them. The destruction stopped Evelyn in her tracks, and she called out Harry’s name. He didn't stop, too intent on the group. She watched as he took the length of the hallway and rounded the corner, never looking back. She paused, breathing heavily. Thinking. Trying to ignore the pain splitting her side. The dust was beginning to settle, and she could clearly hear the duels peaking behind her. Tonks yelled something indecipherable, and Evelyn thought she should go back. But, then her eyes caught sight of a nearby tapestry and she recognized it as one of the shortcuts that Harry had taken her through just weeks ago, and she realized there was no going back—ahead was Harry, and Elizabeth, and something much worse perhaps. If she hurried, she might be able to catch them. 

 

She threw back the tapestry, and took the stairs disguised behind it two at a time, eventually emerging on the first floor at a familiar crossing. She took a left, and found herself at the top of the stairwell that led into the Entrance Hall. Again, she took the stairs quickly, nearly losing her balance at the dizzying pace she set for herself. Her feet hit the ground floor, but there was no sign of Harry. She kept running, trying to survey the hall as she went. She thought she couldn't have been far behind. Dust was still settling throughout the hall, and it was clear the Death Eaters had delighted in making a mess on the way out. Artwork had been torn from its place, and pieces of stone were knocked from the wall. She thought she could hear a younger student crying, but she couldn't stop. She needed to reach them—to reach him. 

 

She took the threshold of the castle with a leap and slid into the night air, her breath catching in her throat as she missed the step onto the grounds. Her feet caught up amongst themselves underneath her, and she lost her footing entirely. Her arms shot out in the dark, her hands and knees catching the ground and burning in pain as she skidded to a halt. She was dazed for a minute, but pushed herself up, steadying herself on her feet. Everything hurt, but she could feel her heart racing with adrenaline and she wasn’t ready to stop. 

 

She was a little disoriented, however, and unsure of where to go. The dark grounds had swallowed up Harry and the others. She scanned the horizon, trying to find his racing figure—but her eyes were drawn to a bright spot in the night, where the black sky was cut by yellow and red flames. Hagrid's hut was ablaze, the fire lapping hungrily upward. It reminded her of the bonfires that had burned on those same grounds in November, the ones that had started her on the path towards this moment—that had brought her back to herself and, eventually, to Harry. Her lungs heaved against her chest, protesting as she stood still. 

 

The flames were a strange hue. Though yellow and red as fire should be, there was sickly green light cast upon them that made them look almost lime in the night. Turning her head to discern the source of this distortion, she saw it: The Dark Mark. 

 

It cast a gross hue across the grounds from its place in the sky. Stretching across the scene, it was obscured only slightly by the tower that she had been so desperate to ascend. A small group of students could be seen beneath the mark, their wands like candles dotting the night. Her eyes strained from the group to Hagrid's hut, but still she couldn't find Harry or the others. They were gone, and she felt dumb and useless. She thought for a moment of returning inside and attempting to find Hermione, or Christian, or Serenity. Instead, she felt herself drawn to the group beneath the tower—wanting to make sure, to know nothing had gone that wrong. That it had been a decoy, a fake, that Draco Malfoy had planted from the perch in the tower he had fought so hard to gain.

 

As she moved closer, the murmuring of the crowd intensified. It was a strange sound to her after the cruel banter of dueling, almost alien in its adolescent gossiping way. Nearing the crowd, she realized they were gathered in a semi-circle around something—someone, her brain suggested. Immediately, the comments about a Mudblood Ravenclaw came back to her. Serenity, she feared, and began to move faster despite her body’s protests, edging through younger and older students alike to get to the front of the crowd. 

 

It couldn't be, it couldn't be, the mantra repeated again and again in her head as she rushed to gain the front of the crowd. 

 

When she broke through, she knew immediately it wasn't. And yet, somehow, it was worse. Crumbled on the ground, joints at strange angles, was Albus Dumbledore. Her headmaster. The man who had allowed her to take a risk in a foolish attempt to protect herself from grief, and who had seen it undone. The man who had allowed her to fail without judgement or scorn, and who had primed her for this war and the role she might have in it. The one who still owed her a meeting and a conclusion, neither of which she would ever have now.  

 

In the soft light of the moon and the wands, she noted that his eyes were closed and his glasses crooked. He was dead. Gone. Never again would he look at her over the rims of those wire crescents with twinkling eyes that betrayed his mirth and his knowledge. 

 

This was the second time she had seen a body beneath the Dark Mark, and her stomach churned with the familiarity. She didn't know exactly what feeling she had at that moment. Perhaps it had been too many feelings at once, because the pain in her body was driven away and all she was aware of was the way her fingers felt numb at her sides and her stomach hollow.

 

She wasn't sure how long she stayed like that, staring at the light reflected in his lenses, but she knew the crowd was moving behind her. It parted, emitting others to the front: Harry and Hagrid. The groundskeeper moaned grievously, stopping an arm’s length from where Evelyn stood. 

 

Harry, however, didn't stop. He kept moving forward until he was at Professor Dumbledore's side.  She watched as he reached his hand out and straightened the headmaster's glasses so that they sat correctly on the bridge of his nose. Harry's hand was strangely steady as it continued to move about, wiping blood from the headmaster's mouth and resting briefly on his cheek. 

 

The crowd began to grow and murmur more purposefully, and Evelyn took it all in without ever taking her eyes off of Harry's sloping shoulders. She watched as he pulled something out from beneath his legs, as he studied if carefully, opened it, and paused. He slipped the item into his pocket, his hands tightening and, from where she stood, she could see his eyes glaze over.

 

Hagrid's dog began to howl grievously, and Evelyn's chest tightened. She felt as though she was interrupting a private moment, but she couldn’t look away. Tears stung at the corner of her eyes and her heart beat sadly against her ribs. The adrenaline leaked out of her, and she felt deflated. Hadn't they just been in the tower doing homework? Grinning and kissing over Herbology? Hadn't they just been teenagers—children—at school? 

 

The world was upside down now. 

 

Evelyn watched on as Ginny broke through the crowd, her red hair purple under the Dark Mark. She spoke softly to Harry, touching his shoulder. He didn't seem to notice. Ginny spoke more forcefully, reaching for his hand and trying to gain his attention. Still, he stayed. 

 

"Harry," Evelyn's voice quivered on the soft, Scottish night air. When she spoke again, it was a bit stronger. "Harry, we need to go. People were hurt. We need to be with them now." 

 

He turned his eyes towards her, taking her in as if it was the first time he'd seen her. His eyes lapped her up, and Evelyn watched as he slipped out from under Ginny's grasp and came towards her. His hands took either side of her face, shaking for the first time. For a moment, she felt as if he was ensuring she was real. As if he needed to hold her between his vibrating palms and feel the warmth of her skin, the dip of her chin. Her eyelashes brushed the sides of his fingers, and her heart beat loudly for him. She placed both of her hands over his, and repeated softly, "We need to be with the others. We need to go."

 

"I'll follow you, Evie." He replied resolutely.
 

 

 

 

 

Credits: All bolded text comes from J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.



Chapter 42: In Memoriam
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Several days and nights had passed in relative silence since the headmaster's death. The days were warm and sunny, and the nights were cool. It was the perfect time of year, and yet everything still felt upside down. The halls were unusually quiet, and when they ventured out of doors, students huddled together as if suspicious that something might pull them apart. No one laughed. No one studied. Students seemed only to move in these packs from point to point, always looking over their shoulders. 

 

Evelyn, Harry, Hermione, Ron, and Christian spent much of their time together. Their scrapes and cuts had been mended quickly by Madam Pomfrey, but they visited the hospital wing twice a day to spend time with Serenity and to see Ron's brother Bill. It had been Bill that Evelyn had aided, and who now had scars running the length of his face from a vicious attack by a werewolf-turned-Death-Eater. Serenity wasn't scarred externally the way that Bill was, but she had several internal wounds. A Death Eater had knocked Christian out and then set on Serenity with the Cruciatus Curse until the Ravenclaw had lost consciousness. She was healing quickly, but was quieter than normal. When they visited, she spoke very little. Her sharp eyes strayed from them, looking past them as if to ensure there was nothing lurking in the shadows. 

 

On this particular day, Evelyn sat near Serenity's bedside and watched her friend watch the world. The boys stood behind her talking absentmindedly about the early summer Quidditch friendlies. Their exams had all been postponed, and there was little else to do besides wait: in the hospital wing, the Great Hall, the tower. Evie felt as if they were endlessly waiting for direction, for an adult to give them instructions on what to do next. No such directive ever came, and she was beginning to think it wouldn't. They were adults now, she knew, and there were few lessons left to give.

 

"Tomorrow then," Serenity said softly, "in the morning, they'll lay him in?"

 

The boys hadn’t seemed to hear her, leaving Evie to reply. "Yes, it's open to everyone. Though a few parents have already come to collect their children. You missed the row Seamus got into with his mom."

 

Serenity nodded, something flickering at the corner of her lips. Madam Pomfrey had said that she was free to go as long as she took it easy, but Serenity hadn't left yet and that had been two days ago. Evie had spent time agonizing over whether she was going about supporting her friend the right way. There was a small part of her that thought Serenity would respond better to being yelled at, to someone shaking her until she was rattled out of bed, but Evie couldn't bring herself to do it. Her brilliant friend with her sharp observations and her piercing gaze had been brutalized. She needed time.

 

"Do you think you'll come down with us? To say goodbye?"

 

Serenity made a thoughtful sound as if she was mulling it over, but nothing more. She didn't speak again while they were there.

 


Later that night in the tower, Evelyn laid across the couch with her head in Harry's lap. He was stroking her hair, and looking thoughtfully into the fire. She had tried to read, but couldn't focus her thoughts on anything and the book had collapsed into her lap, nearly forgotten. 

 

She turned her eyes towards him, studying the length of his jaw and the stubble that ran along it. The round bottoms of his glasses sat away from his cheeks, and above the yellow glaze of the lenses was the wild tuft of his hair. She couldn't make out any more of his features from that angle, but traced the angles of his hair with her eyes. It was a Rocky Mountain arrangement, wild in its peaks. As the days grew warmer, it seemed to reach further outward, calling for her to run her fingers through it. It was always the first place her hands went when they kissed, running the length of it just as he did himself anytime he was flustered or otherwise feeling.

 

"What are you thinking about?" She called softly to him, wanting his attention.

 

"Tomorrow," was his reply.

 

"Want to talk about it?"

 

"Not yet," he said, glancing down at her quickly. Her eyes found the grimace on his lips immediately and knew not to press him.

 

"Let me know when," she smiled back, taking his free hand and lacing her fingers through his. 

 

"What about you?" He asked, giving her fingers a quick squeeze between his own.

 

"Serenity—do you think she'll be okay?"

 

He had already returned his gaze to the fire, but she was still looking at him, watching his jaw move as he replied. "She will be, eventually. She wasn't hurt—not the way some people have been, like Neville's parents." What had happened to the Longbottoms was common knowledge among the children of the Order, and in some cases was considered a fate worse than death. Harry continued, "I think she might just be scared. Based on what you said, she never really thought about fighting. And she was thrown into it. Christian got hurt, she got hurt."

 

"Yeah," Evelyn said after a long pause, "And she loves him, you know? 

 

"Who?" Harry asked, his eyes returning to hers. His brow was knit above the top of his frames. 

 

"Serenity. She loves Christian. She's in love with him. Seeing him hurt like that," Evelyn paused, running her fingers along the length of Harry's before locking them back together. "It probably hurt more than the Cruciatus ever could."

 

"I don't know about that," Harry huffed.

 

"Harry, if I had to watch a Death Eater attack you and I felt powerless to stop it... If you went down and I didn't have a chance to come to you, to make sure you were still alive—even if I was being tortured or attacked, you'd be top of mind."

 

Whatever she thought Harry's reaction might be to her declaration, she hadn't expected silence. But that's what she got in return, as well as a hard swallow, a grim smile, and a taunting shine in his eyes that didn't quite explain itself. He gripped her hand tighter, but his eyes left her face and returned to the fire.

 


The next morning, Evelyn and Hermione woke in their four-poster beds and numbly threw off the thin, summer sheets that the house elves had recently placed on the beds. They dressed quietly and with care, exchanging as few words as possible. Evelyn helped Hermione twist her wild hair back into a solemn knot, and Evelyn borrowed a pair of Hermione's black shoes. They descended the staircase on tiptoe to find Harry and Ron waiting near the bottom for them.

 

Harry wordlessly held his hands out to Evelyn, taking her quickly into his grasp with the certainty of someone who had been asked to hold something of value and to never let it go. Hermione and Ron were quietly going back and forth, and as they turned to move towards the portrait hole, Evelyn noticed Ron's hand on the small of Hermione's back as they walked. 

 

As they made their way out of the castle, Harry suggested they take a shortcut to avoid running into any of the Ministry officials that were staying at the castle for the funeral. Evelyn had watched him maneuver around them for the entire week, including a skillful evasion of the Minister of Magic himself. He led the way, twisting his arm back to keep ahold of her hand. 

 

They reached the Great Hall quickly, and Evelyn was struck by how quiet the room could be. It hadn't been so silent since she'd arrived the previous summer, when she had been one of the only people in the castle. There was barely any chatter or sounds of cutlery scratching against plates. No one seemed to be eating. 

 

They took a place at the table and took food onto their plates, but it felt more like ceremony than reality. Ron was stabbing awkwardly as his food, and Hermione was sipping tea. Harry's eyes were anywhere but the head table, where Evelyn noticed the minister was perched.

 

Evelyn didn't have to abide by the same rules as Harry, and instead defiantly studied the minister for a few minutes. He was a wild looking man with yellowish eyes that swept over her again and again, looking past her—looking at Harry. She wasn't quite certain what he wanted with Harry, but it was evident Harry wasn't interested. Based on looks alone, she wasn't sure she trusted the minister. Her eyes drifted from him to a group of Ministry officials who were seated nearby, and then back to the start of the table where the professors formed a somber line of small looking people. They too were quiet, and uninterested in their plates. 

 

Evelyn shifted her gaze at last to her aunt, who was seated at the right hand of Dumbledore's throne-like chair despite the fact that she was now acting headmistress. Nearly everything was the same about her aunt that day as any other: her hair was pulled back tightly in its usual bun, her glasses were set just below the bridge of her nose, she was unsmiling, and her eye was critically moving about the room. But, today, more so than other days, Minerva's face was closed off. Her shoulders were rounded, as if they bore some unbearable burden. And, as Evelyn looked closely, she noticed her aunt's hands strumming restlessly beside her plate. This was a disheveled—a grieving—woman. 

 

She rose as Evelyn watched on, and the hall fell silent. 

 

"It is nearly time. Please follow your Heads of House out into the grounds. Gryffindors, after me."

 

The silence broke like a wave crashing down, and the clatter of feet and benches filled the room. It was a cacophony in comparison to what it had been before. As they moved, Harry's hand returned to hers. She noticed the way his wrist stiffened to keep her close, as if the sea of people might swallow her up and they'd be parted forever. She held back just as tightly, hoping her grip would reassure him.

 

The mass of students and teachers moved towards the lake in a somewhat orderly fashion, and from the Entrance Hall's threshold Evelyn could see hundreds of chairs lined up and a number of guests milling near them. The grounds were drenched in sunshine, and she felt the deep absurdity of how lovely the day was. There were a number of people gathered throughout the chairs, and as she neared the lake's shore Evie began to spot people she knew. She noticed that Harry, beside her, was scanning the crowd, too, and pausing on nearly all the same faces as they came into view. The only one who seemed to acknowledge her gaze was George, who grimaced a bit and tipped his hat her way. He walked behind his brother Fred, escorting a stoic-looking blonde woman that Evelyn had never met before but who she assumed might be Marie. 

 

Her Aunt Demeter was a few people behind them, walking on the arm of a redheaded man that looked remarkably like a Weasley and who Evelyn assumed might be Charlie. There were other Order members cast about, many wearing the resolved mask of grief. A few seemed to carry bitterness about them, and the emotion seemed to sit tightly at the base of their neck like a strained muscle. The betrayal still sat unsteadily with many of them, as they'd come to believe the headmaster and had trusted in his trust of Severus Snape. The only one unmarked by betrayal was Harry. He had known; he had always known.

 

More and more seemed to be milling about and it was clear that there wouldn't be enough seats for all of the students, faculty, colleagues, and friends. Even the various ghosts from the castle had glided down from the castle, and Madam Pomfrey had arranged for all of the students still under her care to come down (with her help and oversight). Within Pomfrey's radius, Evelyn noticed Fleur supporting Ron's brother Bill; Luna escorting Neville into a seat; and Serenity leaning on Christian's arm. Her eyes locked into Serenity's for a moment, and she realized there was something settling within her friend—something steely and not yet fully decipherable. Close to resolve, but different. Serenity gave a curt nod before breaking eye contact, and Evelyn knew that her friend wouldn't be returning to the hospital wing after the ceremony. 

 

Evelyn followed Harry into a row of seats near the lake's shore. They weren't seated far behind her Aunt Minerva, who was in the front row with the Minister of Magic. Minnie looked dignified and tall, her hat peaking above the heads of those around her. She didn't speak a word to the minister, who himself looked grave and slightly uncomfortable. Evelyn didn't quite understand the politics of the British magical government, but she knew that neither of her aunts were particularly fond of the minister—who was still relatively new—and that Demeter had written a particularly scathing op-ed piece about him shortly after his appointment was announced.

 

Evelyn drifted into her own thoughts, thinking about what would come next for her, for Harry, for her friends. She thought briefly of her sister and of the prophecy between them. By now, she was certain that Voldemort knew everything he needed to know about the Castell sisters and that Elizabeth would be training to do whatever was necessary to best her. This time, though, they weren't competing for the top grade or the last piece of cake. This time, Elizabeth would be training to kill her. Evie felt empty at the thought—no jolting stomach or uncomfortable twist. Just empty. As if the realization had come to her years previously, and this was just a moment of remembering. 

 

She knew that she would have to study harder in the seventh year. She had done okay in battle, but she’d need to do better if she wanted to survive. She'd have to train, to continue dueling, to dig as deep as Harry had. She cast a sideways glance at him, and her heart began to swell with gratitude for his presence. They hadn't been together for very long, but she knew that her heart held him so firmly within it that it was becoming increasingly difficult to imagine her life without him. His quiet strength, his bravery, his determination: these were the pillars of his soul that she admired. She tensed her fingers between his for a brief moment, smiling and looking down into her lap. 

 

All of those feelings were suspended when eerie music began to break through the air, and heads turned towards the aisle where Evelyn's eyes found Hagrid. His large face was shining with tears, and his arms cradled a purple-draped shape that must have been the headmaster's body.

 

Beside her, every muscle in Harry's body tensed. Next to him, Hermione was crying silently, Ron had gone white, and Ginny looked like steel. Her eyes briefly sought out Serenity, who had the same strange look on her face as before, and then Demeter, whose mouth was a thin line as fat tears rolled down her face. 

 

Harry's eyes seemed to follow Hagrid intently, both as he laid Dumbledore before the crowd and as he retreated, but Evelyn's gaze didn't leave the headmaster's body. He looked so small—and that smallness struck her as particularly devastating. She listened closely as a stout man in black robes spoke about the headmaster's character and his greatness. The speech, despite the lengthy list of achievements given, felt generic, and Evelyn strained to keep her focus on the man's words. She would have said different things, and she thought an anecdote or two would have been better than the list of accomplishments given. She thought briefly that this man would have benefited from an editor. She hoped Demeter listened, too, so that they could discuss how disappointing the eulogy had been. Albus Dumbledore deserved more, she knew—they all knew.

 

Her reverie was broken by screams, and her hand tightened in Harry's as bright flames engulfed the headmaster's body. Smoke rose wildly into the air and a red dash burst across the sky. Then, just as suddenly as it had come the scene disappeared and where the funeral pyre had been was now a white marble tomb. A shower of arrows came from overhead, falling near the base of the tomb, and Evelyn barely caught the tails of the centaurs as they retreated into the forest. The whole scene had been confusion and now even the lake was still, the merpeople sunk back beneath the surface. The sudden quiet felt strange. Evelyn's hand was still tensely intertwined with Harry's, and she couldn't get herself to relax just yet.

 

She turned to look at Harry, who was looking back at her with some unfamiliar emotion screwed up in his face. His glasses had shifted down the bridge of his nose, and the tense line of his jaw struck her. She suddenly recognized the emotion. The familiarity of it, seen on other faces (including her own) before, clicked into place. Her hand still lay tight in his grip, and she knew before his mouth opened what he was about to do. She knew too her reaction, so she spoke first.

 

"No."

 

The word seemed to knock him back, and the jaw that had been tightly screwed into place suddenly flapped loose. A sputtering noise came from his throat as the hum of the crowd grew around them.

 

"You—no? What?" He managed.

 

"I said no." Her hand still in his, she stood, and he followed. Together they moved away from Ron and Hermione, who were awkward in their consolation of one another, and from the rest of the crowd. Her feet strayed to the shores of the lake.

 

"You—you can't say no. I-I haven't even said anything yet."

 

"You didn't have to say anything. It was all over your face. You still haven’t gotten that poker face down. We’ll have to keep working on it.” She was smiling, which she thought might have thrown him off even further. He looked bewildered.

 

"Evelyn, you can't be serious. You're in danger with me."

 

"I'm in no more danger with you than I am with myself."

 

"You-you don't understand." He was starting to become flustered, and his free hand raked wildly through his hair. "I've got things to do. Dumbledore, he-he left me with a mission. I’ve got to do it—alone."

 

"You can do it, Harry. That doesn't mean I can't support you—or even go with you. You can't think for a second Hermione or Ron will let you go alone. Why would I be any different?"

 

"Because you are. You're different."

 

"I can duel better than Ron. I’m better at Transfiguration than Hermione, and I've got a decent footing in Potions and Charms. Plus, I can cook. If you're going to chase after something, don't you think I'd be a handy person to have around?"

 

"Yes—but no. No, because I wouldn't be able to think about anything else but you. And I need you to be safe."

 

"Harry, I'm not safe. My sister is a Death Eater. She orchestrated this whole thing, and she's not going to stop until-until she has her way." Evelyn paused, wishing she'd taken the time to tell him the hard part—wishing he knew already about the prophecy. If he had, they wouldn't be standing here. Hell, perhaps they wouldn't have been at a funeral at all. "There are things you don't know." She added softly, eying the crowd that was swelling towards them. Unfamiliar faces turned towards Harry, knowing him and inspecting the couple. 

 

The phrase tripped him up, but only for a moment. "Voldemort, your sister... They'll use us against each other."

 

"They can't, Harry. They won't be able to. Not if we don’t let them." The feeling that swelled in her chest was proof enough that they couldn't. 

 

He paused, looking away from her and squinting in the sunlight as his eyes moved across the horizon. His eyes were unreadable behind the glare of light across the lenses of his glasses.

 

"Anyway, you don't get a say really." She added fiercely, smiling as his eyes snapped back to her. "You can't protect me, so don’t think you can just leave and I’ll be safe or that I’ll smile sweetly and understand. I’m not on the sidelines. I’m on the pitch with you. We can be together and fight, or separate and fight. Either way, you’re not saving me.”

 

The words of the prophecy swirled through her mind, and Evelyn suddenly felt like a ticking time bomb. Perhaps it should have been her pushing Harry away, insisting he get as far away from her as possible. But, no, she was selfish. After waiting so long to have him, she couldn't bear the idea of him slipping away. Distance she could handle—but breaking it off seemed too final. 

 

Harry was spared the need to respond by the interruption of a man shouting his name and limping wildly in their direction. Evelyn recognized him as the Minister of Magic and, with one look at Harry, excused herself to find Hermione. 

 

Her friend was a few yards off standing with Christian, but as Evelyn approached, their conversation seemed to break up and the Ravenclaw turned and disappeared into the crowd. He hadn't seen Evelyn, but she had seen him. His normally open, amiable expression had been closed off and his brow had been furrowed. He'd looked angry or disappointed, or both.

 

"Where was he off to?" Evelyn said as she came up to Hermione's shoulder, staring after him. She noticed Ron nearby with his brothers, and Serenity with a woman she presumed was her mother based primarily on the fact that they looked nearly identical. 

 

"I'm not sure," Hermione said softly, "I just ended it."

 

"You what?" Evelyn turned her full attention to Hermione, who stood holding both elbows with her arms folded against her chest as if she was cold. Her whole countenance was closed off, but she didn't look sad or angry.

 

"It wasn't anything really. A bit of fun, you know? He's brilliant and lovely. A great snog." 

 

"But?"

 

"But, he's not safe with me. He'd never be. He's a Pureblood—just being friendly towards me puts him at risk now."

 

"You know he wouldn't care about that."

 

"I know, but it's not just that. I'll have to go—" Hermione stumbled a bit as if she wasn't quite sure of what she might need to reveal to finish her sentence. She gave Evelyn an uncomfortable look. 

 

Evelyn put her out of her misery. "With Harry? I know, I understand. I think he would have, too."

 

Hermione looked mildly surprised, but nodded. "He would have, but he wouldn't have either. We weren't quite serious, and I couldn't ask him to wait for me. Besides," Hermione paused again as we watched Christian resurface in the crowd alongside Serenity. Her mother hugged him, and he looked like he had mostly recovered himself already. "She needs him more than I do."

 

Evelyn couldn't argue that point. Instead, she placed her arm around Hermione's waist and tugged her gently into a side hug. Hermione seemed to appreciate the gesture, and leaned into her friend as a small smile broke across her face. 

 

"I suppose there is one silver lining to your dumping Christian though."

 

Hermione looked up at Evelyn, her expression quizzical.

 

"Ron's mood swings will be over."

 

Hermione laughed lightly, pushing off Evelyn and rolling her eyes. "That will never be true."

 

"What won't be true?" The man himself had been moving towards them, and the question came out in an earnest tone. Harry was at his side, having apparently shaken the minister.

 

"What did Scrimgeour want?" Hermione asked, rather than answering.

 

"Same as he wanted at Christmas. Wanted me to give him inside information on Dumbledore and be the Ministry's new poster boy."

 

This was news to Evelyn, and she attempted to conceal her surprise by nodding along with Hermione. 

 

"Look, let me go back and hit Percy." Ron replied, turning towards his brothers who were still assembled nearby, and scuffling with Hermione as she pulled him back. Harry let out a light chuckle, and Evelyn smiled at his laughter. She hadn't heard it in a few days, and she realized just then that she had missed it. 

 

She wanted to say something more, but before she could land on the right thing, she heard her name being called and turned to see her aunts standing nearby and gesturing for her to join them. "I'm sure this is about summer plans," she said, and the three nodded, turning their attention to the castle as she broke away to join her aunts. As she walked, she heard Hermione muse on the very topic she was thinking on—there were rumors Hogwarts might be closing in the wake of Dumbledore's death. Her aunt, as acting headmistress, had been involved in several conversations on the topic just in the last week, and had warned Evelyn that they may not be able to stay the summer at the castle as they had originally intended. 

 

"Alright?" Demeter asked, reaching a hand out and bringing Evelyn in close to her.

 

"Alright as can be." Evelyn sighed, leaning on her youngest aunt and turning her eyes to her oldest. "Any news?"

 

"None yet, no. I don't think they will be persuaded to make a final decision until they see enrollment numbers for the fall and how the news turns for the summer. With the number of deaths from the war rising, it may be that Albus is forgotten within weeks."

 

"Even with the present news cycle, that seems unlikely." Demeter said gravely.

 

"I know," Minerva acknowledged, "But the board is short-sighted and unwilling to listen to reason. Or at least unwilling to listen to me."

 

"So," Evelyn paused, looking between the two. "Where will we go?"

 

"I think we'll divide our time." Minerva said, smiling, "We'll stay with Demeter until the weddings, then we'll come to my cottage. Then, if the school does open, we'll come back here in late summer to settle in."

 

"The weddings?" Evelyn asked, surprised something so cheery as a wedding could be discussed in this moment.

 

"Yes, I've just gotten word that we'll have two to attend." Minerva's smile broadened, "Remus Lupin and Nymphadora Tonks, and then Bill Weasley and Fleur Delacour."

 

Evelyn's face must have shown her shock at the former, for her younger aunt chuckled and exclaimed, "Yes! It's true. Our old dog has learned himself a new trick!"



Chapter 43: Moony
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Evelyn and Minerva were at the castle for only a few weeks before traveling to the Isle of Skye in Northern Scotland to attend Remus's wedding. Demeter met them at an apparition point in a shady tree line in the Highlands, not far from the dirt road that they had been instructed to walk along for a kilometer. 

 

Evelyn had read Remus's letter, which included the directions to a Muggle tavern with a note that they would feel as if they had made a wrong turn then must go on for several more minutes and then they'd arrive. From the looks of the landscape, she agreed with him—the place seemed uninhabited. If not for the nearby sign that read Waternish, 1 KM, she wouldn't have been convinced there was a town anywhere near where they'd landed.

 

The women straightened their garments and then began the trek, chatting amiably as they went on. The day was slightly overcast, but bright, and the sea rustled alongside the coast. Evelyn watched the waves roll into the shoreline from the road, until the conversation took an interesting turn, and her full attention was drawn back to her aunts.

 

"Couldn't convince Charlie to stay in town for the wedding?" Minerva asked her sister as they walked along, the corners of her mouth turned slightly upward but her eyes remaining focused ahead. 

 

"No, never—he loves his work too much, and he'll have to be back at the end of the month for Bill's wedding." Evie noticed the way Demeter's cheeks had pinked up, and she tried not to smile as she silently observed the conversation. Her younger aunt added hastily, "Tonks was a bit disappointed. She'd been hoping he'd come. Since they've been mates just as long as we have, you know."

 

"Will you be headed his way this summer?"

 

"I might take an assignment there."

 

"An assignment?" Her older aunt seemed to have cracked, an unusually impish grin spreading across her face as she cast a sidelong look at her sister, "Is that what they’re calling it these days?"

 

The pink blush on Demeter's cheeks turned a deep red. Evie had never seen her younger aunt so uncomfortable as right then, when she tried to stumble through the beginning of an explanation.

 

"Merlin, save your breath." Minerva cut her off, chuckling. "I've known for ages. You've taken every chance you could to get to Romania—a country that isn't that interesting. I was only waiting to see you two together to confirm my suspicions."

 

"And you thought now would be a good time to confront me? In front of our young, impressionable niece?"

 

"Young and impressionable? She's at least been able to get a Gryffindor to call her his girlfriend. I thought perhaps you'd want to ask her for tips."

 

Evelyn laughed outright, along with Minerva, as Demeter turned a deeper and less faltering tomato-red. It wasn't often that Aunt Minnie was playful, but when she was, it was always with this biting wit, which Evelyn admired. Her mother’s sense of humor hadn’t been as sardonic—more like Demeter’s—though her mother had always been more of the mediator in the family and her younger aunt more of the puckish troublemaker. 

 

"I don't want Charlie to be anything more than he is!" Demeter rushed, pushing her hair behind her ears as she often did whenever there was an argument to be made. Minnie only quirked an eyebrow in response, which seemed to fluster her sister and drove her to add, "Our jobs come first, but we enjoy one another’s company. We have fun together. It's-it's—"

 

"Oh, you've taken the fun out of it," Minnie chided, dropping her arm around her sister's shoulders and bringing her into her side with a comforting squeeze. "What's an old widow to judge the love affairs of anyone? I only wanted to tease you—and only because you're lovely together."

 

Demeter seemed to relax into her skin. "Really? You think so?"

 

"Well, not as lovely as this one and Mr. Potter, but they have young love on their side." Minerva gestured to her niece with her thumb, and suddenly it was Evelyn who was blushing. She couldn't believe her aunt would comment so openly on her relationship with Harry, and she watched as Demeter's eyes widened slightly and the blush began to recede from her cheeks.

 

"I did receive a few letters which alluded to an unnamed beau. You can imagine my surprise when I turn up at the service for Albus, and discover it's none other than Harry Potter himself. She's in England for barely a year, and snatches up one of our most eligible bachelors!"

 

"I didn't snatch him up!" Evelyn exclaimed in self-defense, suddenly understanding why Aunt Demeter had looked so oddly self-conscious. Where was the tavern they were looking for, she wondered, and would it pop up and save her from the sudden turn this conversation had taken?

 

"No, but you know what she did do?" Minerva was smiling wickedly now, and Demeter looked genuinely interested. "He tried to break it off to keep her safe—and she told him no."

 

"You told him no?" Demeter said with disbelief.

 

"You make it sound so cut and dry—"

 

"I overheard a few moments of it as I walked nearby with the minister, who himself was waiting to talk to Mr. Potter. It was indeed cut and dry."

 

Demeter turned her eyes to Evelyn expectantly, and Evelyn conceded, "I might have been a bit straightforward." Then, pausing, she added, "How much did you hear?"

 

"Only your opening argument, dear. I promise. Once the conversation started to carry on, I ushered the minister away. He seemed too interested in Harry, and I was hoping to keep him off, but he had to have his turn. The act of a desperate man."

 

Evelyn nodded, hoping the conversation would turn to politics with the mention of the minister, but she had no such luck. Demeter instead repeated, "But you told him no? He tried to break it off—to keep you safe—and you said no."

 

"He thinks if we're together that I'll be more of a target, that Voldemort will try to use me against him."

 

"Then he doesn't know? About the prophecy?" Demeter's eyes flashed, her head swiveling to Minnie and then back to her niece.

 

"No," Evelyn conceded again, biting her lip and dropping her eyes to the ground. "I haven't told him yet. I think I should—he's probably in more danger with me than I am with him."

 

"Now, that's a silly assertion, my dear," Minnie said, looking over the top of her glasses at Evelyn. "He is the boy who lived, after all, and has been the target of Voldemort since he was born. With Dumbledore gone and his birthday coming, Harry is in an even more precarious position." She paused, her lips pursing before adding quickly, "I would have been disappointed in him as his Head of House if he hadn't attempted the noble thing and broken it off."

 

The three women were quiet for a moment, and it was the first stretch of silence since they'd landed in the Highlands. Overhead, a bird called out across the water and another answered. The line of trees near the road seemed to stretch on forever, the branches yawning upward like the gangly arms of tired children. The path turned to follow the coast, reaching the peak of a slight hill. Upon reaching the crest of it, a tavern just a few yards off was revealed to them. They were nearly there.

 

"Do you think I should have let him do it?" The question came before Evie realized she intended to ask it.

Demeter looked pensive, but Minnie responded immediately, "I would have been disappointed in you as your Head of House if you'd done anything differently."

 

 

They must have been spotted in their approach because Nymphadora Tonks and Remus Lupin suddenly appeared, hand-in-hand, on the threshold of the tavern. They were grinning wildly, and Evelyn was struck by how youthful Remus looked. They both seemed to be beams of light, and Remus shone alongside his bride. His eyes were bright, his hair and clothes tidy (and the latter seemed to be new), and he looked relaxed and rested for once. It was difficult to remember at times that Remus was only in his late thirties, just as it had been hard to believe it was true of her own parents before their deaths. They had always seemed so much older, and Evelyn was only just beginning to understand the ways in which wars aged people.

 

"We're so glad you could make it," Tonks declared, taking Demeter into her arms and squeezing her, "We couldn't do this without you." 

 

Demeter had been asked to stand as maid of honor and witness. She had been close friends with Tonks throughout their time at school, and had always kept Remus close—first as a friend of Athena and Ian's and, more recently, as the last connection to her sister and brother-in-law.

 

Remus patted Demeter's back while she remained in Tonks's embrace, then turned to shake Minerva's hand. When he came to Evelyn, his grin seemed to widen, and he took her into his own embrace. A smile swelled on Evelyn's face as she hugged him back, whispering in his ear, "I'm so happy to be here."

 

When the greetings finally broke up and the three women were ushered into the tavern by the bride and groom, they were directed to the check-in and were told that the events would commence around six that evening and would be followed by dinner. 

 

“We’ll be inside this room here,” Tonks gestured to the right of the desk, where Evie could see what looked to be a casual dining room.

 

“We had hoped to be outside, but a storm is coming in. We could have made it work, but,” She paused, sharing a playful look with Remus, “We don’t want our methodology to bring too much attention to ourselves.”

 

They understood immediately, murmuring their agreement.

 

“It’ll work just fine.” Demeter said sweetly, and Tonks and Remus were quick to agree. 

 

"Has everyone else arrived?" Minerva asked, looking up from the paperwork she'd been asked to complete by the man behind the counter.

 

"My parents, yes. Mad Eye and Kingsley should be here soon. That's it."

 

"No Cassandra?" Demeter asked, looking somewhat surprised. Remus frowned slightly and shook his head in the negative.

 

"Harry isn't coming?" Evelyn asked in what she hoped was an innocent tone, but judging by the identical grins that replaced the expressions on the faces of all the adults around her, she'd failed.

 

"Unfortunately, no on that front as well," Remus said, keeping a cool tone and letting his knowing grin slip away, which she appreciated. "We had to keep it as quiet as possible, and there were other things to consider. Harry is very safe where he is right now, and with the trace coming off in just a few weeks' time, we thought it best to maintain that location until we absolutely needed to move him."

 

Evelyn felt a million questions begin to bubble up inside of her, and her face must have shown it because Tonks replied, "There's a plan for moving him when that time comes, and the location is compromised. I'm sure you'll hear more about it as soon as the details are hammered out."

 

Evie nodded, hoping it was true. She turned to her aunts as if to ask that very question, but they were just smiling at the bride and groom, and avoiding eye contact with their niece. Minnie, taking the key from the man who'd collected her paperwork, said only, "We'll go upstairs and unpack, freshen up. We'll be back down well before six."

 

Tonks clapped, looking for all the world like an excited child. "We'll be here most of that time, enjoying a few rounds with my parents. I'll be changing, but not until five or so—and I'll need Demeter to help me along. Otherwise, I'll be doomed. I'm sure to spill on myself or fall down the steps. I can't be trusted to my own devices."

 

"I know that far too well," Demeter said laughing, squeezing her friend's hand before turning to follow Minerva and Evelyn up the nearby staircase.

 

The room was small and offered little space around the beds, but after a few well-placed charms the situation was more pleasant. Within moments, dresses zoomed out of their bags and hung themselves on hangers in the closet. Evelyn reclined onto the bed, watching her eldest aunt move her wand from task to task. She let out a brief sigh, questions still churning in her mind. Demeter took the spot next to her, and they both turned their eyes to Minerva, who was wordlessly casting anti-wrinkle charms on their garments. 

 

"The trace that Remus mentioned on Harry—that's on all witches and wizards, right?" Evelyn finally asked.

 

"Yes," Minnie replied, "As long as you're a British citizen. You were born here, but you received your letter from the Academy in the States, so you hold dual citizenship. It applies to you, too. As would the permit laws in the U.S. whenever you're there."

 

She nodded, "So, when the trace lifts, will Voldemort come after me, too?"

 

Minnie and Demeter exchanged a quick glance before Demeter spoke, "The Order has taken it into consideration. He may choose to pursue you as a way of keeping Ellie loyal to him, but we don't think he will."

 

"He's a selfish man, Evie. Whatever he's promised your sister, he'll put his needs first—and his needs concern Harry alone. Ellie may be important to him on some level, but he doesn't love her or care for her the way a normal person might."

 

Evelyn felt her body relax into the bed, feeling more at ease with this revelation. "So, I'll be safe then? At least until I'm back at school."

 

"Right," Demeter confirmed, a grim smile turned towards her niece. "And that's only if Ellie comes back to school. We think she's the one who will fixate on you. She's the-the threat." Her aunt nearly choked on the words, and Evelyn knew it hurt her to say it. 

 

"I'll be ready for her," Evelyn said softly, "I know her tricks."

 

Demeter reached across her body and grabbed Evelyn's hand, giving it the same friendly squeeze that she had seen her give Tonks. "We'll keep you safe—and we'll try to save Ellie, if she'll let us."

 

Both of the younger women turned their eyes to their elder, who had fallen silent. A dark shadow lay across Minnie's face, and resignation sat across her shoulders. It was the weight of a woman who had seen children turn towards darkness throughout her career, who had lost bright students to an unforgivable path. A heavy burden, Evelyn thought, and Ellie will be the weightiest. 

 



Evelyn felt slightly awkward as she entered the tavern's main room. The space was filled with unfamiliar faces that turned towards her reflexively as she hovered on the edge of the crowd. She narrowed her eyes, scanning the sea for the few faces that would be familiar to her. A small group was tucked away near the fireplace on the far side of the room, and Mad Eye's silhouette was unmistakable against the roaring fire. As she made her way towards the group, she realized that she was easily the youngest person in the place—not even able to enjoy the scotch that seemed to be in every patron's glass. It was a far cry from Hogwarts, and somewhat surreal. She wished deeply that Harry had been there, and if not him, Hermione or Serenity. 

 

She thought perhaps her dress made her stick out more as well. While her aunts had also chosen festive wares, Evelyn's attire was more trendy and perhaps even more American than she had anticipated. The dark navy shirt dress with its small lemon pattern and long row of buttons down the front was unmistakably youthful and feminine in this crowd of boisterous fishermen and locals. 

 

"There you are," Remus greeted jovially, setting down his own glass of scotch and opening his arm to welcome Evelyn to his side. Again, she was struck by how youthful and open his countenance was. "Now, we're just missing the bride and her maid!"

 

"Ah, to the bride!" Mad Eye growled, raising his glass and adding, "May she be on time—for once—and not break anything that can't be fixed."

 

The other adults chortled sweetly, clicking their glasses together and taking hearty sips. Even her Aunt Minnie participated, and Evelyn noted the moment as one of the few times she had ever seen her aunt take a drink.

 

Before she could think further on it, Remus turned to her and said confidentially, "I am so pleased you're here, Evelyn. Having you here—I can't say what it means. I have long owed a debt of gratitude to your parents, your mother especially. I hope I can do her justice."

 

"Mom loved you unconditionally, you know. There's no justice to be served." She replied, feeling a mixture of amusement and embarrassment. Remus wasn't drunk, but it was clear that this wasn't his first drink either.

 

"I promised Athena that I would watch out for you, guide you if I could or if I had to. I didn't keep that promise as well as I could have."

 

"That's not true at all. You're family. And you aren't going anywhere. You're making good on that promise." She smiled at him, elbowing him softly in the side.

 

He returned the smile, but there was reluctance in his eye. "You're just like her, you know. I can see her in your face." He paused, taking a sip from his glass. "She'd be so proud of you."

 

A hot, uncomfortable feeling began to creep up the back of Evelyn's neck and across her chest. Yet, simultaneously, she was delighted by the compliment. She could only manage, "I hope so."

 

Then, suddenly, a grin cracked across Remus's face. "Though she'd be bewildered by the news her daughter was dating the son of James Potter. Athena and James butted heads quite often in school, even after Lily decided to give him a chance." He let out a wild laugh, looking absolutely free as the memories seemed to flash behind his eyes.

 

"Really?" The uncomfortable feeling passed, and was immediately replaced by a desire to know more. She'd been astounded when she'd discovered that her parents had been friends with Lily and James Potter, Sirius Black, and Peter Pettigrew. Her mother had often spoken of Remus, but the others were never mentioned—maybe alluded to, but without the proper context her mother's school friends had just been faceless props in family stories that centered on the coming together of her parents and their young romance.

 

"Yes! I think it may have taken more effort on James's part to win over Athena and Cassandra than Lily herself. She had rather protective friends, and rightfully so—James was a bit of a berk in those early years at Hogwarts."

 

"Who's Cassandra?" Evelyn asked, now the second time in a short span that the name had popped up. Oddly enough, the surprising thing wasn't that this woman had been mentioned multiple times, but that she was still alive at all. Evelyn tried to push that morbid thought from her mind.

 

"Cassandra, you've met I'd think? Or, you know her daughter?" Remus asked, his brow crinkling as he attempted to think. "Her name is, hm, Serenity. Savior. Cassandra Savior, yes. She never took his last name."

 

The last bit seemed more to himself than to her, and Evelyn wondered if she should egg the groom on or slip him some Sobering Solution. "His last name?"

 

"Her daughter's father's, of course." Remus chuckled to himself, raising his eyebrows in jest. "But you know her, don't you? I thought Demeter mentioned it." 

 

The question Evie wanted to ask seemed to be stuck in her throat, and she wondered if there was a way to get it out that seemed both socially acceptable and intelligent. Remus looked on expectantly, as if he hadn't just implied that he had, all this time, known the identity of her close friend's father—her friend who had, as a first-year, spouted theories about being born from an egg because a father seemed much less plausible.

 

She settled with, "Did you know him? Serenity's father? Because—"

 

Remus cut her off with a waggling finger. "Ah, you do know her then. But unfortunately, my dear girl, I can't answer your question." He tipped a bit of scotch into his mouth, half smiling and half grimacing as he swallowed. Then he supplied the answer to her next question before she could ask it, "It's not my story to tell. Marauder's rule."

 

The last sentence seemed nonsensical to her, and she wished she could argue with his logic, but he seemed set in it. What's more was the conversation seemed to be over, as an official looking man strolled up to Remus and inquired as to whether or not he was the groom. His attention was turned wholly to this man, and she was forgotten entirely. If it hadn't been so close to the start of the ceremony, Evie would have dashed up the stairs right then and penned a letter to Serenity. As it were, she'd have to wait at least until after the nuptials. 

 

Evie turned her eyes way from Remus, looking for the first time to her other side, where Moody happened to be seated. He grunted affectionately and slid a glass of scotch to her. 

 

"The truth is messy, lass." He grounded out, rapping his scarred knuckles against the tabletop and taking a glass for himself. She stared at the one in front of her as he clinked his against it and grunted again as he sloshed the drink back. A few dribbles of amber came down the sides of his gnarled mouth. 

 

Evelyn raised her glass to her lips, taking a hesitant sip. She'd never had scotch before, or anything stronger than tequila for that matter, and hadn't been much of a drinker since her episode over the holiday break. While she knew objectively that the drinking hadn’t been responsible for triggering that memory, her stomach had a hard time disassociating that moment from the alcohol. The scotch burned on its way down, flaring through her nostrils and past her teeth as she exhaled. It was an interesting sensation.

As she went in for another sip, Moody reached his finger over to the bottom of her glass and tilted it up so the liquid rushed in, filling her mouth more than she had planned on. "You'll need the full strength of it, if you plan to keep pace with Potter."

 

She swallowed harshly, hacking as she exhaled and the old auror clapped his hand against her back and chortled. 

 

Soon, her choking cough was the only sound in the room and she awkwardly tried to swallow it down as she turned watery eyes to the entryway, where the silhouettes of two women had appeared. The old sailors and fishermen throughout the room had grown silent as the youthful forms took shape before their eyes. As Evelyn dabbed her eyes and cleared her throat of the cough, she turned in her seat to see that Remus had moved with the official-looking man over to the fireplace. A nervous grin had settled on his face as the women moved through the crowd together, arms linked. 

 

The whole point of doing the wedding this way—far from home with so few friends—was to draw as little attention to themselves as possible. Prejudice against werewolves was at an all-time high, particularly after recent reports of werewolves joining with Death Eaters to attack witches and wizards in villages throughout the south, and Remus had some name recognition after his resignation from Hogwarts a few years prior. He'd been nervous to do a ceremony at all, but Tonks had insisted, and this had been their compromise. 

 

All of that was to say that, regardless of their intentions, Demeter and Tonks had quieted the room as they glided past the grizzled locals, simpering and ecstatic. Demeter looked stunning in a navy mid-length dress with a high neckline and a low back, which was revealed as she turned to maneuver around a table. Her hair rolled down around her shoulders in soft waves. As she moved closer, Evelyn noticed the dress had a soft floral imprint that seemed oddly feminine for both her aunt's and Tonks's taste. Her aunt must have scrubbed her hands as well, because the fingers clasped together nervously in front of her looked remarkably clean of ink. 

 

Tonks was practically clinging to Demeter's arm, drumming her fingers energetically against her forearm and looking bright with energy. Her hair was a warm chestnut color with soft pink and blonde streaks running throughout, and it fell in curls around her face. She wore some modest jewelry, unlike her usual style, but her dress—her dress was exactly what Evelyn might have dreamt up for the day. The bodice was fitted perfectly to her form with spaghetti straps and a scooped neckline. The skirt hung in an a-line to her ankles, revealing a pair of pink pumps that matched the highlights in her hair. The dress was made perfect by embroidered lines of gold thread, which came every three inches or so horizontally around and which themselves were decorated with flowers in the same gold thread. The lines were like soft waves, not quite straight, and they moved beautifully in the light as the bride moved towards her groom. As Tonks neared, Evelyn realized the dress was actually two pieces—a sheer overlay with the golden thread design and, underneath, an ivory slip of the same length that clung to the bride's form.

 

At the table where Evelyn sat, a woman began to sniffle. The pair moved through the room quickly, and arrived at the fireplace with identical smiles on their faces. Remus received them, looking nearly giddy. He greeted Demeter first with a quick peck on the cheek and a hushed, "Thank you," as she placed Tonks's hand in his and withdrew to the side. 

 

The man began to speak of the things that had brought this unlikely pair together. He was general, which Evelyn understood he had to be, and brief—the ceremony taking less than half an hour. Before she knew it, she watched Remus and Tonks receive pens from their officiant. They moved to the table where she sat and rolled out their marriage license, leaning over to sign it and then making room for Demeter to mark it as their witness. The officiant announced the new couple with a smile and, in response the nearby tables erupted with applause as Remus took his bride into his arms and kissed her in the firelight. Evelyn herself clapped heartily as a man nearby dropped a few coins in a jukebox that sprung to life with a joyful tune and people throughout the crowd raised their glasses to honor the newlyweds. 

 

When they broke apart, Tonks immediately let out a joyous whoop. Evie and the tables around her responded with a simultaneous laugh. There was dinner still to be had, and dancing, she was sure, but it was otherwise done—and everyone looked happy and relieved. 

 

Remus, her mother's oldest friend, was married. 
 

 

 

 

 

Author's Note: To any readers who are still following along with this story, thank you. I've been working through some later chapters, and am really excited about the next few chapters. We're sticking very closely to the original narrative, so there's a lot of brilliant material to come. I hope you'll continue to stay with me, and please share your thoughts along the way!

 

I am going to try to commit to posting at least once a month, if not more, moving forward. But, I don't think I have to say that it's been a really difficult, really strange year and writer's block has been cropping up more frequently than it use to. Reviews have been such a great way to connect and help me stay motivated—I want to hear not only what you think of this story, but what you might be working on or what other stories you might recommend. Now more than ever, I think it's important to connect with community.

 

Hoping that you are all well, and finding things to celebrate, big and small, especially this time of year.

 

xx, Antigone.



Chapter 44: Charity Burbage
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Elizabeth sat at the right hand of her Lord, smiling sweetly at Bella across the table and running her index finger along Nagini's head. She spoke softly to the snake the few words she'd managed to teach herself in Parseltongue, which included "good girl, beautiful girl," and which the snake seemed to enjoy. 

 

The rest of the table was silent, waiting for the arrival of Snape and Yaxley. He refused to begin without Snape, and had left the chair on his left side reserved for this loyal servant. This had been much to Bella's dismay, as it was the position she typically occupied, but things had been quite different in Malfoy Manor since Draco and Elizabeth had arrived after the timely death of Albus Dumbledore. Snape was revered now more than ever for the tutelage he had provided Draco and Elizabeth, and Draco had risen in the esteem of their Lord for the accomplishment of his task. (Though behind closed doors, it was Elizabeth and Snape that most of the praise went to as the Lord seemed nearly incapable of giving the Malfoys even a morsel of recognition.) 

 

Musing over these thoughts, she turned her head to her right, where Draco himself was seated, and caught him as he looked uncomfortably at the floating figure above them. The body was turning slowly, casting a muted reflection across the glossy stain of the table. Draco seemed the only one at the table even slightly concerned. Something akin to empathy moved in her for him, but she didn’t want to show it. 

 

Since Elizabeth had learned that Draco had dealt the final blow to Dumbledore, he’d taken on a new—and more serious—shape in her opinion. Now, back at Malfoy Manor, she had been willing to entertain him again: his passing caress, his evening visits, even the occasional kiss. They’d stopped short of where they’d allowed themselves to go that afternoon in the Room of Requirement. She still didn’t want him to get attached. Even now, she reminded him that He might have other plans for either of them. Though, after Draco left for his own quarters in the evening, she let her mind wander. She fantasized about what a public courtship might be like. She dreamt about him in her bed, remembering the way her fingers felt as they gripped his shoulders and the strong columns of his arms as he rose above her. She told herself that if her Lord’s disgust with the Malfoy family waned over the summer, she might have the opportunity to ask Him to consider Draco as a match for her outright. 

 

When he behaved like this, she wasn't certain that disgust would ever waiver. The doubts that she’d dismissed in the Room of Requirement as they stood in front of the completed cabinet seemed to flare up again. She questioned whether Draco had strength enough for her—in flashes it was there, it was brilliant, but at other times it waned, and she feared his inconsistency. He was still looking at the silent, revolving figure when Snape and Yaxley arrived. 

 

"You are very nearly late." Her Lord spoke from beside her, and her eyes moved from the newcomers to Him. She loved the sound of His voice, and the way the room seemed to pressurize under it. Her gaze lingered on Him adoringly, remembering all the time He had carved out for her in the recent weeks to continue her training and to bring her into His confidence. The child I'd always wanted, He had said of her yesterday afternoon after they discussed His path and how He hoped hers might mirror it. 

 

He spoke again, directing the men into their chairs, and Evelyn watched as Snape arrived opposite her. His face was in its usual, stoic cast and broke only in its glance at Draco when it revealed a mild concern before closing up again. Once settled in the seat, Severus Snape turned his eyes to his Lord and waited to be spoken to. 

 

"So?"

 

"My Lord, the Order of the Phoenix intends to move Harry Potter from his current place of safety on Saturday next, at nightfall."

 

If the Lord had pressurized the room with his speaking, then Snape had electrified it. Each body at the table moved with new energy, and a hum was in the air. One woman, further down the line, clasped her hands together as if in prayer. Bella, seated beside Snape, looked at him with ecstasy. 

 

The conversation continued with Yaxley interrupting with different intel, and Snape rebutting. For some time, her Lord sat quietly and stared only at the woman above, transfixed in His thoughts. She thought she knew what He must be feeling and thinking, but sat still in her chair. It wasn't the moment, she knew, for her interjections and her respect for her Lord ran deep through her. She knew when He wanted her, He would ask for her. She sneered at a man down the table who cracked a joke, and whose choking laugh echoed in the room. This man didn't understand his place, she thought. He was grossly stupid. Not all of the followers had the reverence for her Lord she thought they should, and she fingered her wand thinking of ways she could change that in this man given the chance. 

 

It was the feeling of four cold fingers and a thumb nestling between hers that brought her out of this tangent. She was nearly startled by it. Her sneer fell off her face immediately, and her eyes turned to Draco with new softness. He only chanced a glance at her before turning his head back to the speaker, but he left his hand in hers for the time being. He had recognized, somehow, how angry she’d been getting, she realized—and it surprised her how in-tune he was to her. Elizabeth followed Draco’s example and turned her attention back to the conversation, letting her eyes move between Yaxley, her Lord, and Snape in rotation until they reached a startling conclusion. 

 

"I shall attend to the boy in person. There have been too many mistakes where Harry Potter is concerned. Some of them have been my own. That Potter lives is due more to my errors than his triumphs. I have been careless, and so thwarted by luck and chance, those wreckers of all but the best-laid plans. But I know better now. I understand those things that I did not understand before. I must be the one to kill Harry Potter, and I shall be." All of this was said to the unconscious form floating above, His eyes never leaving the form, as if this was some seer of Delphi who could confirm His allusions and speak of his triumph. 

 

As He concluded, an angry wail rose from below their feet. All eyes turned around the room in search of the source. Some looked concerned. Others looked curious, muttering to one another inquisitively. Ellie was annoyed. As an occupant of the Malfoy Manor, she knew the cause. More importantly, she knew who was meant to be guarding this ward, and she rolled her eyes at Wormtail’s ineptitude. Immediately, he was dispatched to right his wrong and slipped from the room in his rat-like way. 

 

Ellie, distracted by her disgust of Wormtail, was only brought back to the conversation when she heard her Lord insinuate that Lucius Malfoy was no longer in need of a wand. The hand that sat on hers under the table had become deathly still, and her eyes snapped from the doorway through which Wormtail had disappeared to the patriarch of the Malfoy family, who was two seats removed from Draco. Lucius Malfoy wasn't nearly as glamorous as he had been when Ellie had first met him. His hair seemed to be always slightly unkempt now, like it no longer knew its place. His eyes seemed sunken. He had a nearly jaundiced complexion. While Draco had been begrudgingly awarded some dues by their Lord and his family had been spared, it was clear that He had little patience for Lucius and would take any opportunity to abuse him. 

 

"Your wand, Lucius. I require your wand." Her Lord was all but smiling at the reiteration as Lucius looked back at Him, surprised and lost for words. 

 

He cast desperate eyes to his wife, who sat between him and his son. She sat with her shoulders rolled back, upright and proud despite their situation, and kept her eyes transfixed on the table even as her husband seemed to nonverbally beg for her help. Something must have been communicated between them, because Lucius's mouth snapped shut and his hand shot into his robes, withdrawing his wand and passing it along the table. 

 

It was Ellie who handed it to her Lord. He traded her a simpering smile for it. He studied the wand for a moment, holding it up as if it was some prized possession He was claiming, and asked, "What is it?"

 

"Elm, my Lord."

 

"And the core?"

 

"Dragon—dragon heartstring."

 

"Good," the Lord replied, drawing out his own wand to compare the two. Out of the corner of her eye, Elizabeth saw Lucius lean forward as if he would be receiving the other wand in exchange for his own. Ellie couldn't help herself, she scoffed at the gesture, so surprised by the impertinence of it that she verbalized her first sound since speaking to Nagini. Draco, if possible, grew more still beside her, horror at his father's misstep flashing across his face. 

 

"Give you my wand, Lucius? My wand?" He paused for a moment as others at the table sniggered, "I have made allowances here," He gestured briefly to his right, indicating Elizabeth and Draco, and continuing, "I have given you your liberty, Lucius, are these not enough for you? But I have noticed that you and your wife seem less than happy of late... What is it about my presence in your home that displeases you, Lucius?

 

A dumb look misplaced the horror that had occupied Draco's expression and Ellie feared it was the same look that sat on hers. Her mind spun wildly, trying to bring together the threads of those statements. Ellie's hand jerked out of its entanglement with Draco's and raced to clasp itself with her other hand in the safety of her own lap. 

 

The men didn't wait for a reply from her or Draco, instead carrying on as if nothing unknown hadn't been articulated. Lucius gasped like a fish in air, "Nothing—nothing, my Lord."

 

"Such lies, Lucius..." Their Lord hissed, opening his palm to Nagini, who had uncoiled herself slightly and was coming to nestle against Him, comfortingly. "Why do the Malfoys look so unhappy with their lot? Is my return, my rise to power, not the very thing they professed to desire for so many years? Is their son, their only son, not in a unique position to bring them more power, more esteem? To raise the family up after their offenses? Can they not see how I reward them, how we rise together?" 

 

Elizabeth’s whole body was on fire. Her gut twisted around His insinuations: I have made allowances. Isn’t your son in a unique position to bring you more power? The words circulated through her brain, but from every angle they seemed to look the same. 

 

He knew about them. 

 

She kept silent as He carried on, embarrassing the Malfoys and Lestranges with the recent news of their niece's marriage to her dead mother's friend, Remus Lupin. The table howled with laughter as Bella's face grew blotchy and the Malfoys each found different spots in the room to stare at. Still, she sat expressionless, desperate to know how He knew—and what the consequences were. 

 

Her brain was still spinning when her Lord called everyone's attention to the figure that had been floating above them. She knew it was time to listen, that her Lord would expect her to be attentive and selfless at that moment. So, she did the only thing she could do: she swallowed her embarrassment, rolled her shoulders back, and tilted her chin up slightly to give her features the regal, snobbish lilt this posture produced. She moved her eyes to the figure, forcing herself into stoicism. She relaxed her forearms onto the arms of the chair. She took up space, and pushed all her feelings for His words—and Draco—down into the bottom of her gut. 

 

"For those of you who do now know, we are joined here tonight by Charity Burbage, who, until recently, taught at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry."

 

If Elizabeth had been surprised, no one at the table would have known. She looked on, completely indifferent. She, herself, had had no idea who the woman was—and couldn't ever remember seeing her in the Great Hall or elsewhere on the grounds.

 

The Dark Lord continued, "Yes... Professor Burbage taught the children of witches and wizards all about Muggles... How they are not so different from us..."  

 

The woman had begun to plead, her cries directed to Severus Snape, who watched on with nearly the same stoic, indifferent mask as Ellie, but the woman was quickly silenced by Him. 

 

"Not content with corrupting and polluting the minds of Wizarding children, last week Professor Burbage wrote an impassioned defense of Mudbloods in the Daily Prophet. Wizards, she says, must accept these thieves of their knowledge and magic. The dwindling of the purebloods is, says Professor Burbage, a most desirable circumstance.... She would have us all mate with Muggles.... Or, no doubt, werewolves." He paused for a moment, letting the woman turn one more time in the air before commanding, "Avada Kedavra."

 

It was then that the worst thing possible happened, more embarrassing and threatening to her than the Dark Lord’s allusion. As the green light filled the room, casting sinister glows across the faces of all of the Lord's closest followers, several moved back from the table in fear. Their chairs scrapped wildly against the floor. Draco did the same, but, worst of all, managed to fall from his chair entirely. He lay splayed in the floor, turning red. His shocked eyes betrayed him, moving first from the body that was now being offered to Nagini, and then to Elizabeth, who sat still and tall in her chair, her cold eyes meeting his with disdain and disappointment. 

 

 

The meeting wrapped up fairly quickly after this demonstration, with their Lord assigning a few tasks to be completed prior to Harry Potter's removal to ensure the entail was correct and that they were in the best position to accomplish their mission. He did this all with calm composure as Nagini swallowed Professor Burbage.

 

He dismissed them, leaving Nagini on the table, full from her meal, and requested a private audience with Bella. She nodded curtly to Ellie as she rose from the table, a wild smile on her face as she toddled after her Lord. Once they had both removed from the room, chatter began to fill the place. 

 

Ellie rose from her chair, eying the Malfoys. Lucius still seemed lost without his wand. He sat staring at his empty hands as if in disbelief. He looked small in his chair, his thin white-blond hair hanging in a staticky curtain around his waning face. His wife was more composed, standing from her chair with purpose and summoning a house elf. She gave it a few curt instructions and then dismissed it. A moment later a silver tray appeared near Lucius with tea and other refreshments, and Narcissa busied herself with caring for him. 

 

Draco, too, looked as though he was still processing everything that had happened. He had reclaimed his chair before the end of the meeting, and had risen to his feet as soon as Elizabeth had stood, but she couldn't bring herself to look at him. She felt hot with embarrassment. Between the way their Lord had outed them and Draco's inability to pay witness to their cause, she was exhausted and felt it best to remove to her quarters. She had begun to move away from him without explanation when Draco's hand reached forward, grasping her arm.

 

"Elizabeth, I need a word."

 

"Not now, Draco," she was angry, with him and with herself. Since he had accomplished his task, she had been less than vigilant with her emotions, which meant she had, in some way, disappointed her Lord. What would He say when they finally met? How could she ask for His forgiveness?

 

It had been her intention to save herself for whomever He had deemed fit for her. Instead, she'd allowed Draco to worm himself into her heart. She had thought of asking for him, and their Lord even insinuated that Draco may have had a chance. But, no, she thought, feeling panicked and ashamed as the image of him sprawled on the floor in Charity Burbage’s shadow came back to her. The image obscured itself in her memory, merging with the sight of him dying on the floor of the girl’s bathroom, his blood leaked around him. Her heart was in her throat. 

 

These feelings were nothing more than a flight of pity and emotion after everything they’d endured together—a battle bond that had gone unchecked for too long, she told herself. Now that our work together is over, I could end it, she thought. Something sparked up in opposition to that idea, and her heart murmured its discontent. She didn’t want to let him go. She didn’t know what she wanted. 

 

"This can't wait—" 

 

He had been in the middle of insisting when Severus Snape had stepped forward, cutting in, "Mr. Malfoy, the Dark Lord has something He would like me to communicate to you before my departure. Is there a private room that may be available to us? Away from these people." He sounded nearly disgusted as his eyes moved over the Carrows nearby. 

 

If Elizabeth hadn't been so dismayed, she may have snorted. Instead, she kept her stoicism and excused herself, heading down the hall to her quarters and locking the door behind her.

 


 

Draco led Severus into a room off of the main hall, and sealed the door behind them. 

 

"Is it safe to speak in this room, or should we take additional measures?" Severus asked.

 

"It’s safe," Draco drawled, annoyed, "What does He want now? Another impossible task? A murder He knows I’m incapable of? And the consequence this time? I succeed and Elizabeth isn't forced to marry someone else?"

 

Severus rolled his eyes, looking somewhat disgusted. "There is no task, Draco. There's no message. I needed a moment alone with you, because it’s clear you’ve lost your mind. You pathetic, lovestruck fool."

 

Draco looked dumbstruck as Severus continued, "Your impertinence is astounding as well as your inability to contain your emotions. For a skilled Occlumens, your behavior this past fortnight has been outrageous. Coming and going from Elizabeth Castell's bedroom at any hour you please, flaunting your current position—making a scene of yourself at the demonstration of a single Unforgivable. You know better, boy."

 

Indignation had crept up inside of Draco as Severus spoke, and a red flush rose under his collar. "How dare you," he seethed.

 

"How dare I? How dare you, child." Severus took a step closer to Draco, and rose to his full height, which brought him to a few inches over the younger Wizard. "I oblivate all the witnesses of Dumbledore's death, allow you to take the glory to ensure your family is spared, and you repay me with this disgusting display of arrogance."

 

There the truth was, Draco thought as the vein in his neck pumped abnormally and all of his muscles seized. The debt he owed.

 

Over the last few weeks, he had been able to stuff down those facts, especially with Elizabeth to focus on. She'd open to him like a flower after a drought, and they'd stormed on together as if she'd always been his. As is she always would be his. Even then, staring down his professor, he could almost feel the way her skin seemed to melt under his touch and the knots in her hair that always prevented him from running his fingers through it in one go. She'd started to confide in him, and even told him that she was proud of what he had accomplished—of what she thought he had accomplished. On the day that they knew to be the service for their deceased headmaster, she had brought a bottle of champagne to his room and they had celebrated.

 

"Pull yourself together." Severus sneered, "You won't get another warning."

 

 

 

 

 

Credits: All bolded text comes from J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.



Chapter 45: The Battle of the Seven Potters
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Elizabeth, upon returning to her bedroom, slid the lock into place and immediately moved out of her heels. She had been in formal attire for dinner, as was expected at Malfoy Manor, and the arches of her feet were sore. She wondered briefly if she could summon a house elf to rub them for her, but decided she didn't have the energy to deal with their quivering conversation and sad, marble eyes. 

 

Instead, she slid out of her dress and pulled on the satin slip she had discarded on the bed that morning. The fire was still roaring cheerfully in the hearth, and she moved towards one of the chairs that sat facing it, grabbing from a nearby table the journal in which she had noted everything she knew of their upcoming siege. Tomorrow night, they would depart for that Muggle neighborhood in search of Harry Potter—and she would be prepared to deliver him to her Lord. 

 

Beyond the door, she thought she heard the familiar creaking of a nearby floorboard that always indicated she had a guest. Her eyes flickered from her journal to see the light shift under the door. She knew immediately who it was. He seemed to be able to always find a reason to wander through this wing of the great house, but they hadn't addressed one another since that afternoon meeting when he had embarrassed her. She knew there was something he wanted to say—or, perhaps, do—but she couldn't bear it. She still felt the shame of his reaction, and whenever she looked at him in the last few days all she saw was his body splayed pathetically on the ground and the fear in his eyes just after the Unforgivable had been cast. She knew he had his reasons, and with the days spent decidedly apart she was sure he'd found just the right sentences to persuade her to empathize with him. But, until she had a chance to meet with her Lord and gain insight into his concessions—why He'd made them, and what He thought of her for them—she didn't dare open her door to Draco. The Dark Lord had been decidedly distant, and had put off meeting with her until after their mission was to be completed. This was part of her punishment, she assumed, and she felt unnerved by it.

 

So, she exercised what little power she had left. She exited rooms when Draco entered them, retired to her chambers whenever acceptable, and refused to meet his eye unless absolutely necessary. She pulled up her power then as her fingers flexed around the edges of her journal, her eyes trained on the shadow beneath her door. She couldn't deny that she wanted to let him in, that she missed the way his hand felt cupping her chin—but the rippling disappointment of her Lord, which had washed over her since that meeting, deterred her.

 

"Go away," she whispered, nearly indiscernible, forcing her eyes away from the door and back to her journal. 

 

Whether he heard or not, his feet shifted down the hallway and the boards were quiet again. The only noise in the room was her hammering heart.

 


In the morning, she woke early and dressed quickly.  Her Lord would be hand-selecting the individuals to fly alongside Him, and the willing candidates assembled in the manor’s garden in the early light. Each gleamed with excitement, and Elizabeth stood amongst them eager to contribute. They prepared a fleet of brooms, and each follower was asked to perform a few tasks to ensure they were nimble in the air. She hadn't spent an enormous amount of time on a broom, mostly out of spite for her father who had wanted his daughters so desperately to love Quidditch. Ellie could still remember the way he had fallen over Evelyn as soon as she displayed an inkling of aptitude for flight and the way her sister had glowed with pride under their father's delighted tutelage, but she shoved aside this memory. She was determined to do well—and she did. 

 

Upon returning to the ground, Bella embraced her, and she could feel pride swell in her mind. He was there, wordlessly praising her just as her father had been for Evelyn. This is better than that, Ellie knew, and any envy that lingered for her sister fizzled out as she looked at Him with a beaming smile. 

 

Draco was next in the air, and to no one's surprise he was the most agile and skilled flyer that had performed that morning. His years on the Quidditch pitch aided him, and he looked powerful and confident in the air. He came back to the ground, landing lightly on his feet and swinging his leg off of the broom. A light clapping could be heard as the crowd of followers admired the young Master Malfoy for his sportsmanship, and out of the corner of her eye she saw one man clap Lucius on the back as if he'd been awarded something. 

 

Draco was about to disappear back into the crowd when the Dark Lord spoke. "I think it best you do not join us tonight, Draco." His long fingers rested on His chin, and Elizabeth watched Him critically from Bella's side as He rose from His seat. He looked sinister as He continued, "Yes, I think it best if Stan Shunpike take your place."

 

There was no mistaking now that this was meant to be an insult. Stan Shunpike was not only Draco's lesser in every respect, but he wasn't even a true follower—the man had been Imperiused and hadn't even produced useful information for the cause yet. 

 

"My Lord, I beg you to reconsider. The boy has shown impressive skill, and we will need him tonight." Bella had moved to His side, her hands moving spastically around the arm that hung at His side but never daring to grasp Him outright. 

 

"No, we will have all the talent we need. I'd rather Master Malfoy stay behind. Dolohov will return from his mission tonight, and I've asked him to have a word with you, Draco. He's eager for the conversation." A grin had unfolded treacherously across the Dark Lord's face, and He raised His arms, stepping away from Bella. "I will rest until dinner, after which we will depart. You're dismissed."

 

He swept from the scene, with only Peter Pettigrew scampering after Him. Bella was transfixed to her spot, and the crowd around them began to mutter. Nearby, someone let out a sinister chuckle. A few men cast glances at Elizabeth, their eyes rolling like heat over her body. She could feel their conclusions without having to hear them: this was her fault. The temptress who had reduced the young Master Malfoy to the position of Dolohov’s whipping boy. The Dark Lord’s favorite who would go unpunished.

 

Draco, who had frozen by the rack of brooms, had gone pale. His mother had rushed to his side as soon as their Lord had disappeared from view, looking sick and forlorn. As Lucius approached his family, Elizabeth could hear his wife demand shrilly, "Something must be done!" 

 

Ellie knew there was only one thing to be done. She could go to her Lord and beg Him to excuse Draco. She could tell Him that she loved Draco. She could ask to take his place, explain to her Master that she’d tempted Draco—teased him until he looked too broken to play with anymore. But, she had felt her Master’s resignation in her mind as He spoke. He might spare Draco for touching her when he’d been ordered not to, He could forgive that, but Ellie knew there were larger issues at play. Draco was soft and fearful. His commitment waivered. This was punishment for that uncertainty as well, to toughen him up, to make him e