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.
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.
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
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