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.”
“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.
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.
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