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.
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