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 a few inches 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 fifteen 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?”
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