“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.
“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, 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
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