Later that week, Evelyn found herself alone in the castle with a letter to reply to and little else to occupy her time. She had been working so efficiently with Serenity and Hermione recently that they had managed to complete all of their assignments for the week thus far. Realizing their work was essentially done until the following day, Serenity had decided to turn in to Ravenclaw Tower in an attempt to catch up on a few hours of sleep while Hermione had lingered in the library with Christian.
Evelyn was operating so efficiently that she had even made time to stop by the Hospital Wing with recent homework assignments for Ron. That afternoon, however, Lavender had been visiting as well and Ron was conveniently asleep when she arrived—so she wasn’t even able to occupy herself with a game of Wizarding Chess.
This was perhaps the first time since classes had begun that absolutely nothing was required of her. Dinner would be on in an hour or so, and Evelyn didn’t want to go all the way back to Gryffindor Tower just to have to come back down for the meal. Instead, she decided to take a seat on a windowsill, which was deep enough that she could rest her legs comfortably across the sill with her back against the stone. It was still bright enough outside that she could see across the grounds, and the spot afforded her a view of the lake. The shores were still snowy, though dark streaks of mud could be seen pushing their way through the white. The lake had warmed in the center, and she could see the giant squid peak out periodically, a tentacle rising at one point to shift some of the ice remnants out of its way.
It was a perfectly fine spot to read and respond to her letter.
She pulled it out of her bag, unfolding it carefully. It had arrived that morning, and she had already read through it once. She smiled as she took in his words again:
Lacey is beginning to think you prefer writing me instead of her. She claims that I’ve received three letters in the time that she’s received one—and you know how furiously jealous she can be. (And yes, she is sitting right next to me as I write this.)
I’ve told her that I must be a better penpal… or a better friend. She’s threatening my life. Do you think you could make it here in time to save me?
Subtle hinting that you should move home.
Alright... now for the reply...
Have you been practicing your dueling again since it got weird the other day? I assume you’ve been avoiding it. I would be. Knowing you, you won’t want to put yourself in that situation again if you can help it. Or you will want to... Because you’re a stubborn masochist and an advocate of the greater good, a horrible cross when it comes to self-preservation.
You can’t tell me that you don’t know what was about to happen that day. You might not want to admit it, and you might not want to make things messy. It might not even make sense to you. But that doesn’t change the facts.
I understand your frustration and hesitation.
I know why you’re still thinking about him. And, you know why, too. It’s obvious, isn’t it? Things have been left unsaid, undone, and it’s just not like you. You’re much more orderly. You like straight lines. It’ll feel wrong until you figure out how to right it.
Sorry if that’s bad news, kid—
Evelyn grimaced a bit as she reached the end, fighting the urge to put off the reply. But, she had the time now—and she liked checked boxes almost as much as she liked straight lines. Worse still, she did actually want to reply to Theo, even if she was convincing herself that he couldn't be right.
He’d been her regular correspondent since her initial letter, and had been a pretty good sport about her heartache over Harry. He was a bit taken aback at first, he had admitted. He hadn’t thought their goodbye was as permanent as she made it seem, and he hadn’t suspected that she had feelings for someone else while she was visiting over the holiday. Interestingly, he had added, based on what he knew of the famous Harry Potter, he didn’t think she’d fall for someone so showy.
She had laughed aloud reading Theo’s characterization of Harry, knowing it was largely based on the American coverage of the TriWizard Tournament and the slander campaign that had followed the next year, when American officials had aligned their portray of Harry with the British Ministry of Magic. Over the years, Harry’s celebrity had evolved from famous infant to quaffed Gilderoy-Lockhart type to damaged, James-Dean type looking for attention (and maybe a bit crazy). She didn’t take the time to correct Theo’s impression, hoping instead to one day have the opportunity to share it with Harry.
Regardless, Theo had attempted to be judicious and fair in his examination of her situation and her recounts of her transactions with Harry (all the while laying out not-so-subtle hints that she should consider moving back to the States after graduation next year). He’d shared her surprise that Harry had picked Ginny, dipping into his recent Wizarding Psychology elective to provide some theories, before concluding that “maybe Harry just wanted to be with someone, and Ginny had her timing right.”
Such a stupid reason frustrated Evelyn, who felt that it would have been dramatically easier for everyone involved if Theo had simply insisted she had misread the situation and that the whole affair had been one-sided. If she was being honest, most of Theo’s thoughts on the subject frustrated her—not because he was wrong, but for the exact opposite reason. Because, mostly, he was right. She had reached out to him because he knew her better than anyone else. Even more, he knew what it was like to want her and to be wanted by her. He had engaged in almost every emotion with her, and knew how the slightest modulation in her mood could impact how she acted, why, and when. The added benefit of his male perspective gave him a serious leg up on any advice Hermione or Serenity could have supplied.
Leaning back against the wall, she thought over what she wanted to write back. At the beginning of the term, she had been firmly committed to the idea she had totally misread Harry’s feelings, but after the exchange in the Room of Requirement she found herself oscillating between thinking he didn’t care and thinking he cared too much. She didn’t know why—despite the wasted opportunities, the missed connection, and the reality of his girlfriend—Harry had almost kissed her. She thought back to her last letter to Theo, where she had tried to describe the look on Harry’s face. The corners of his eyes crinkled slightly, his glasses a big smudged from their combat, his lips curved up on the sides, triumphant, as if he was debating between a smile and a joke. He had looked at her like he couldn’t see anything else. If she hadn’t pulled away, then they would have kissed. She could feel the truth of it in her bones, and she knew that Theo was right. She had wanted to kiss him. She still wanted to kiss him.
She huffed, allowing herself to resent Theo briefly before pulling out a clean piece of parchment and a quill. She wrote until dinnertime, closing the letter just as the corridors began to fill with students as they made their way towards the Great Hall. As the first few students made their way past her, she hastily shoved the letter into her bag. She wasn’t willing to allow the wandering eye of even a first-year Hufflepuff to glance her letter. After dinner, she would take it to the Owlery—it was too incriminating to hold on to.
Once in the Great Hall, she took a seat at the Ravenclaw table next to Serenity, who looked relieved to be joined by her. Hermione and Christian were sitting opposite, and though they kept an open conversation that on the surface seemed to welcome any number of participants, it was clear from their body language that they were entirely absorbed in one another. They sported identical grins, and rarely broke eye contact as they debated the practical uses of dragon blood and theorized on recent topics that Slughorn had covered in potions.
Evelyn took one look at them and, though delighted for her friends’ happiness, started on a different topic with Serenity. “You look rested. Glad you got the nap in?”
“Very glad,” Serenity said, smiling. “Though I’m sorry that I abandoned you. Did you find something to occupy your time?”
“Some letter writing,” Evelyn responded, leaning forward to help herself to some mashed potatoes and green beans. “Theo sent me something this morning, and I thought I’d take the opportunity to write back to him. I don’t think I’ll have a chance—double Transfiguration tomorrow will probably come with double the homework, and then the Quidditch match is this weekend.”
“Couldn’t you talk to your aunt about those Transfiguration assignments? She could let up a little, don’t you think?”
“It’s funny that you think I have any sway over her at all. If anything, I think she thinks I should be spending more time working on Transfiguration. Not less.”
“I was being optimistic,” Serenity said in a deadpan, though her eyes were smiling. She allowed herself to look across the table briefly, her eyes scanning Christian and Hermione, before returning her gaze to Evelyn. Her friend smiled, kind but sympathetic. “Do you think you’ll sit in the Gryffindor section for the game?”
“That was my plan! I think Hermione was planning on visiting with Ron before she goes down, so I’m not sure if I’ll go with her or whom I’ll go down with. I’m sure Seamus wouldn’t mind the company, since Dean is playing chaser. Did you want to sit with me?”
Serenity looked relieved, taking another bite as she nodded vigorously. “I think that’ll be great. Plus, Seamus is a good time. We’ve done a couple class projects together.”
They carried on their conversation, allowing it to move to various topics as they finished their dinner together. Hermione and Christian never seemed to truly notice their presence, and they rose from the table with only a brief goodbye. Serenity wore a mask of indifference as the couple disappeared through the doors, and though her dark eyes sparkled in their usual way, her look was far off, mysterious and reserved, just as it had been when Evelyn was just getting to know her. Though Serenity had opened up considerably since then, she wasn’t one to overindulge in her feelings or to share too much. Evelyn tried to respect that space, just as Serenity had respected hers, and she wanted to wait until her friend confided in her again. Outing her as they left the Great Hall wasn’t the right course of action, so she didn’t ask how Serenity felt and she didn’t tell her what Hermione had said the other night in the common room.
Instead, they said their goodbyes in the entrance hall—Serenity, turning towards the Ravenclaw Tower, and Evelyn to the Owlery.
As Evelyn walked, she allowed her mind to wander from Serenity to Christian to Hermione. She thought of the all the different ways romantic relationships could impact friendships, and she worried over Serenity’s and Hermione’s happiness. Their friendship was still new, but it was clear that they had respect for one another. Evelyn felt certain that if Serenity had confided her feelings to them directly that Hermione would have never allowed anything to happen with Christian. But Serenity hadn’t, and it wasn’t Evelyn’s place to step in. So instead, Serenity’s shoulders drooped while her best friend and her new friend hit if off. Evie's heart felt heavy with the thought, and she wondered too what would happen if Ron ever worked up the nerve to break up with Lavender.
Taking a narrow turn around the corner at the end of the hall, she found herself walking straight into another student. Her head hit their shoulder, causing her to falter and almost fall. She would have if the other student’s arms hadn’t tightened around her, propping her up. As if far away, she registered the sound of the other student exclaiming and the corresponding echo across the hall as Evelyn attempted to gain her bearings. She pulled back, her eyes meeting jade.
“Harry!” She exclaimed, steading herself on her feet. “What are you doing here?” Her voice was breathy and high-pitched, and, even though her head was throbbing, she was very aware of his arms around her. She could feel her body relaxing into his embrace, and her own arms curving around his in naturally as he recognized her and returned her smile. His eyes were locked with hers, and she could feel him leaning somewhat closer to her. She wondered briefly if this was his response to her only because she had spent the better part of the last few weeks avoiding him. As Theo had guessed, after their last dueling session, she’d been wary to be alone with him—and had dodged every opportunity he might have had to ask her to practice with him again. She let the thought drift away, willing herself to stay in his arms though she was sure she should have pulled back. Theo’s words started circling in her head, but she actively stuffed them down.
“I’m avoiding McLaggen,” Harry answered, a flash of frustration on his face. “He wants to strategize for the match tomorrow.”
“Ah, yes,” Evelyn nodded, “I heard him talking in the common room yesterday. He was looking for you, had some big ideas he wanted to share.”
“He’s insufferable.” Harry muttered. Then, he asked, “What are you doing here?”
“Just on my way to the Owlery. I’ve got a letter to send to Theo.”
Harry gave her a strange, frowning look, and she relaxed her grip on him. Leaning away, she brought her hand to her forehead to feel the spot where his shoulder had collided with her head. The spot was tender and she winced, which seemed to inspire concern in Harry.
“Are you okay?”
“I think so, but I bet I’ll have a weird bruise on my forehead tomorrow. I might have to stop by the hospital wing to see if Madam Pomfrey has any bruise cream stocked.” She paused, feeling her forehead again briefly. It did actually hurt quite a bit. “Your shoulder is like a rock!”
“Blame Quidditch, I guess,” he laughed, shrugging. The frown had dissipated. “Your head wasn’t nearly as hard—my shoulder feels fine.”
She laughed, “I’m happy for you! Means you’ll be in top shape for the game then—wouldn’t want my fellow Gryffindors resenting me from taking out the star seeker.”
“If I’m not in top shape, I can promise it won’t be due to any shoulder injury.” Harry said, a quiet look coming over his face. Evelyn wasn’t exactly sure what he meant by that, but she nodded as if she did. By then, she’d leaned back far enough that Harry had dropped his arms from around her and the moment was gone. They walked together as far as their paths overlapped, Harry keeping an eye out for McLaggen and for Lavender as well, who he explained had repeatedly accosted him because Ron was pretending to sleep whenever she visited.
When they reached the hallway leading to their common room, Harry paused. This had been the longest amount of time they had spent alone together since the awkward end of their dueling session, and Evie was sure there was something he wanted to say—but he seemed unable to bring himself to it. She felt relieved, knowing as she stood there looking at him that he couldn’t quite find the words to say whatever was on his mind. After being in his arms, she was worried she wouldn’t be able to say no to any request he might have, and she didn’t want to encourage him. Things were left undone, chances never taken, kisses never stolen. Theo was right, it was driving her crazy, but it was somehow made better, at that moment, by the fact that Harry was struggling with it too.
Instead of offering him a kindness or letting him have some time to hash out whatever it was he was thinking through, she said simply, “I’ve got to take this letter up to the Owlery still. I’ll see you around, Harry. If I don’t see you in the morning—good luck.”
She walked away, her step brisk. She didn’t look back.
“So how’s McLaggen shaping up?” Ron looked at Harry expectantly from his bed, the corners of his mouth turned slightly downward as he fiddled with the edge of his sheet. Harry had come to visit Ron before the match that morning, initially hopeful that Madam Pomfrey would allow him to take Ron to the pitch with him to watch the game. However, the matron had squashed the idea, fearing it would overexcite her patient.
Harry feared that staying here would over-agitate Ron, which was much worse in his opinion. He went through the standard response with Ron, reassuring him that McLaggen wouldn’t be stealing his spot on the team and admitting that the reserve keeper had been driving him crazy. Then, almost as an afterthought, he added, “Will you stop pretending to be asleep when Lavender comes to see you? She’s driving me mad as well.”
Ron looked sheepish, shrinking into his pillows a bit. “Oh, yeah. All right.”
“If you don’t want to go out with her anymore, just tell her.”
“Yeah… well… it’s not that easy, is it?” Ron said, still looking sheepish. Harry felt the words heavily, and he remembered how he’d felt just the other day sitting in the chair next to Ron’s bed, and how he felt last night, standing in the hall with Evelyn. It wasn’t easy. Ron continued on, pulling Harry from his thoughts. “Hermione going to look in before the match?”
“No,” Harry said, gritting his teeth and adding, “She wanted to, but said she didn’t think she had enough time. I saw her go down to the pitch with Graves.”
Ron looked glum, a blotchy redness spreading across his neck, and they departed with brief well wishes. He wished he had given himself more time to spend with Ron that morning, but he was running late as it was and didn’t have time to soften the blow of Hermione’s new relationship—if that’s what it was. He didn’t know much about it, to be honest. The girls had been spending a considerable amount of time with the Ravenclaws since the start of term, and their distance admittedly frustrated him. He pushed the thought from his head, moving quickly down the halls and looking out the windows as he passed.
A noise in the corridor caught his attention, and he looked up to see Draco Malfoy, Elizabeth Castell, and Hera Manos walking towards him. They noticed Harry as well, and exchanged brief looks before emitting a few laughs between themselves.
“Where’re you going?” The words were out of Harry’s mouth before he could stop himself.
“Yeah, I’m really going to tell you, because it’s your business, Potter. You’d better hurry up, they’ll be waiting for ‘the Chosen Captain’—‘the Boy Who Scored’—whatever they call you these days.”
Hera giggled, her eyes moving from Draco to Harry and back again. Harry didn’t know her very well, but it was clear she found something humorous in this exchange. Elizabeth on the other hand was entirely humorless, staring at Harry as if he was an insect crossing her path. She took the first step towards him, pushing past and making room for the others to follow. Harry turned to watch them as they turned the corner and vanished. Harry’s insides tore apart as he fought the urge to follow them. This was his chance to finally see what Draco had been doing, to finally prove that he was working on something—that he was the one behind the attacks on Ron and Katie.
But he couldn’t follow them. He had to go. He had an obligation to be at the game, and everyone was counting on him. They had already lost too many players, he reasoned, and the reserves wouldn’t be able to handle it. He moved down the hallway, furious. With every step he took towards the pitch, his skin crawled and a hot surge of anger enveloped his stomach. As soon as he entered the changing rooms, Ginny was there, demanding to know where he had been. Everyone was ready to go, and their eyes landed on him, relieved. He quickly began to change, pulling his robes over his head and saying quietly to her, “I met Malfoy.”
She looked at him suspiciously, her eyes narrowing. “You can’t be serious.”
He looked at her strangely for a moment, his brow furrowing as he finished adjusting his robes and made to grab his broom. “Of course I’m serious.”
“You think I’ll believe you were late to a game for Malfoy? Harry—tell me the truth. Who were you with?” Her tone was increasingly losing its quiet register. “Were you with her?”
Shock spread across Harry’s face as Ginny glared at him, her grip on her broom tightening and her knuckles turning white. “Ginny—he was up there, with a couple of girlfriends while everyone else is down here. I wanted to follow him. You know I’ve been—”
“Does it matter right now?” Ginny cut through his sentence, rolling her eyes with obvious frustration. He felt a bit shocked as he realized she didn’t believe him and, without a proper reply, was left to watch her march out to the pitch with the team trailing behind her. He wasn’t far behind, the shock spinning through his head barely drowned out by the shouts and boos that filled the arena.
Evelyn and Serenity trundled down to the Quidditch pitch together, walking well ahead of Hermione and Christian, who moved at the slow pace of two people fully absorbed in one another. Evelyn and Serenity, on the other hand, were absorbed only in how cold it was. There wasn’t much wind, but the sky was overcast and, without the sun, the air was frigid. Serenity eyed the grey clouds, frowning and saying, “I hope it doesn’t rain.” Evelyn agreed as they began the ascent up to the Gryffindor section. She had discovered that morning that Serenity was not the biggest Quidditch fan, though she had nevertheless attended the majority of the school games since her first year. They took seats next to Seamus and Neville, and Serenity stood out like a sore thumb in her Ravenclaw blues. Seamus glared at her playfully, leaning over to accuse her of spying in his thick accent.
She huffed, glaring back at him as she said, “As if I’d think you had anything worth knowing!”
Seamus looked shocked for a moment while Serenity held her glare, but she soon broke into laughter and he joined, along with Evelyn and Neville. The four fell into amiable conversation, and Seamus continued to give Serenity a hard time as they waited for the match to begin. They were just beginning to wonder when the match would start when the Gryffindors came marching out of their changing rooms, Ginny leading the way. Even from their distance, Evelyn could feel the determination radiating off of the younger girl. The game began moments later, and Evelyn tried to watch closely as the quaffle moved between chasers from the opposing teams. A dreamy voice narrated their movements, and Evelyn leaned over to ask Serenity and Seamus, “Who is that in the commentator box?”
“It’s Luna Lovegood.” Serenity said with a brief chuckle. “She’s in my house. She’s—”
“Loony,” Seamus supplied, his Irish drawl making the word sound particularly funny. “What! That’s what everyone calls her.” Seamus added in response to a dark look he received from Neville.
Neville leaned forward, looking at Evelyn with a sincere expression. “She’s nice enough, you know, and smart, real smart. But, her father writes The Quibbler and she’s got some odd theories. That’s all, really.”
Evelyn nodded, smiling back at Neville before turning her attention back to the players. Serenity was saying something to Seamus about Luna, but Evelyn kept her eyes on the action. She had attended many Quidditch games with her father growing up and at the Academy, especially after Theo and Devon had joined the team as beaters, and she liked the sport.
“And Harry Potter’s now having an argument with his Keeper. I don’t think that’ll help him find the Snitch, but maybe it’s a clever ruse.” Luna’s voice carried over to them, and Evelyn turned her eyes to where she thought Harry was—a small figure on a broom that now appeared to be gesturing angrily and then setting off across the pitch. Evelyn smiled a bit to herself, as Serenity and Seamus laughed aloud and began to dig into McLaggen, the reserve keeper. It was clear, rather quickly, that he was an arrogant piece of work that no one seemed to have patience for. Evelyn didn’t know much about him, and continued to watch the game as Ginny and Demelza, one of the other chasers, each scored a goal. She cheered along with her housemates, but she didn’t feel quite relaxed. It was clear something was amiss; the team wasn’t working together the way they should have been.
“Oh, look! The Gryffindor Keeper’s got hold of one of the Beater’s bats.” Luna said, immediately shifting everyone’s attention to the Gryffindor hoops. Evelyn noticed that McLaggen was attempting to give what looked like a lesson in the middle of the game, much to the chagrin of both the Beaters and Harry. Evelyn had watched Theo and Devon enough times to know how a beater should swing, and as he took a swipe at an incoming bludger she knew he hadn’t hit it correctly. Instead of heading towards the nearest Hufflepuff, who was pulling back their arm with the quaffle in hand, it veered towards the left, slid upward, and made contact with—Harry.
A sickening crunch echoed through the air, and Evelyn watched spellbound as Harry’s body immediately crumpled, staying on his broom only for a moment before his weight shifted to the side and he began to fall. Luckily, the beaters had been watching the same scene play out and they had their wits about them. They dove towards their captain, catching him in the air as the crowd broke out into a mix of shouts and boos.
As his seemingly lifeless body drifted to the pitch, and a professor moved to get Harry off the field, Evelyn’s whole world slowed. She could feel her hands tighten around the edge of her seat, and her stomach flatten. Serenity was saying something to her, but she couldn’t hear anything. She couldn’t say anything. All she could see was Harry, until he was taken out of sight. She wanted to get up and run down the dozens of flights of stairs, to meet them as they took Harry to the hospital wing, to be there with him—but she couldn’t move. She couldn’t do anything. Nausea washed over her, and she felt uncomfortably hot.
Serenity spoke again, and Evelyn heard her with a sudden snap of sound, “Evie—Evelyn—did you hear me?” Just by the look Evelyn gave her friend, Serenity knew she hadn’t and continued on, “I said, did you see where the bludger hit him?”
“It looked like it hit him right in the head.” Evelyn admitted, feeling sick to her stomach. Her hands were still gripping the seat tightly, and she felt as though that grip was the one thing keeping her from toppling over.
“McLaggen is such an idiot. I can’t believe he did that—and to the captain of all people.” Serenity turned her eyes back to the game, where play had briefly been stopped as Madam Hooch had moved in to break up a fight between the Gryffindor beaters and McLaggen.
Seamus replied, and Neville asked a question, and their conversation seemed to continue, though Evelyn was watching the doors of the changing room more than the play above. That’s where they had taken him, where she had seen the last glimpse of him, and she didn’t know where else to look for more information.
Once the boys were deep into their conversation, Serenity leaned over and said quietly, “He’ll be okay, Evie. You’ve got to relax. We’ll go to the hospital wing as soon as it’s over, okay?”
Evelyn looked at her, a mixture of confusion and fear washing over her. “Okay,” was all she could muster, though she felt anything but okay.
Instead of watching the rest of the game play out, Evelyn watched the immovable—unbearable—doors to the changing room, and wondered if they had taken Harry to the hospital wing. He had looked so small from her vantage point. Limp and fragile, he had been carried by his teammates to the ground and then transferred to a stretcher by a professor. They had taken him to be patched up, good as new, she assumed. But she hated assuming, and as the long minutes of the game ticked on, her stomach knotted itself up, and she felt uneasy. She wanted to leave, but she had no good reason to go. She wasn't Ginny. Ginny could have gone, could have flown there from the middle of the pitch and everyone would have understood. Even Hermione was privileged enough to go, just as she had when Ron had been injured. But Evelyn was still new, still seen as an oddity by some students, and any scene that she caused would only draw attention to herself. Now wasn't the time, she knew; now she needed anonymity.
That logical resolve didn't stop her mind from racing towards the worst conclusions regarding Harry's condition, however. She had no sense of whether his injuries were manageable, if there might be permanent damage, if he'd ever wake up again. She wanted to know, needed to know.
When the final whistle blew, Evelyn scanned the pitch one more time. She was surprised to see that Ginny had in fact not left the game to be with Harry. Instead, she stood in the center of the pitch shaking hands with the Hufflepuffs and looking disgruntled. The one person who has the agency in this situation, and she's using it to shake hands, Evelyn thought bitterly, jumping to her feet and looking expectantly at Serenity. "I think we should go check on Harry. We can find Hermione and Christian on the way."
Serenity agreed. They said their goodbyes to Seamus and Neville, who requested an update on the captain, and Evelyn led them quickly down the stairs and through the crowds of students, who all seemed to be walking purposefully slow and haphazardly.
"Evelyn, you need to slow down!" Serenity's voice came from behind, a huff of air gasped out at the end of her sentence.
Evelyn paused, looking over her shoulder to see her friend a stride or two behind her. She tried to smile when Serenity reached her side, but wasn't quite successful and she was sure her mouth was curved at a strange angle. She had to consciously lessen her pace, which chewed at her frustration and made her feel more anxious.
When Serenity had fallen into step with her and had caught her breath, she said, "I know you're worried, but you've got to slow down. Madam Pomfrey probably won't even let us in, and—"
"You think she won't let us in?" Evelyn asked, her anxiety blooming more fully in her chest. She knew the emotion had reached her eyes, and it was now more than ever that she felt she needed to improve her poker face. They crossed the threshold of the castle, and moved quickly through the entrance hall to the grand staircase.
"I'm not sure, but you know her reputation."
Evelyn groaned, hating that Serenity was right. She would wait if she had to to get in. She just needed to see him, to make sure he was okay—or at least to see that he had the potential of being okay.
Serenity paused at the top of the stairs, breathless again. "I really need to exercise more. There's a war on, for Merlin's sake." She muttered to herself. When Evelyn didn't laugh, she added in a softer tone, "I know how you feel about him. And if you arrived panicked and scared, it will only make matters worse."
Evelyn turned her gaze to Serenity, making contact with those sharp, discerning eyes. They weren't wrinkled in the corners just then, as they did whenever she was teasing or sarcastic. Instead, they were rounded with honesty and openness. She was being candid.
"Yeah, I do. Of course." Serenity smiled a little, and then added, "To be fair, I wasn't sure you knew."
Evelyn let out a bit of the breath she had been holding in since the moment McLaggen had taken up the beater’s bat. "Unfortunately, I have a very clear understanding of my current predicament."
Serenity chuckled lightly, letting it—and their conversation—die in her throat as they turned the last corner. Christian was waiting outside of the doors, and he turned to look at them as their footsteps drew closer.
"Yeah, she wanted to make sure Harry was alright. She's worried the blow from McLaggen fractured his skull. Can you believe it?"
"I'm going in," Evelyn gestured towards the door, her anxiety rising back up now that she was so close to knowing more.
"I'll wait here." Serenity said, her voice still soft and her smile small. Evelyn nodded curtly in response, and moved toward the doors, pausing only momentarily before opening them just enough to slip through.
Madam Pomfrey was nowhere in sight, and Evelyn was relieved for it. She could hear soft voices going back and forth. Neither were Harry's. As she rounded a short privacy curtain that had been drawn along the bed, Hermione came into view. She was standing at the end of Ron's bed, her arms crossed over her chest and her neck red. Ron was sitting up in his bed, looking better though he appeared to be rather white.
Harry was laid out on a bed next to Ron's, his head wrapped in a turban of bandages. He was still unconscious, but he seemed to be breathing normally. Evelyn slid in between the privacy curtain and the bed, where there was just enough room for her to stand. She placed her hand on his, and was relieved to feel the warmth of his skin on hers. His fingers moved against hers, and her whole body relaxed. From what she could tell, he was hurt—but he was healing.
The conscious pair were silent, and after no one seemed interested in volunteering information, Evelyn asked for confirmation of her assessment. "How is he?"
Hermione shot Ron a look that seemed to cut off any reply he might make, which allowed her to reply, "The bludger cracked his skull pretty badly, but Madam Pomfrey has given him a round of potions that should heal him over the weekend. She thinks if he gets enough rest, he will be able to leave on Monday. She wants to monitor him for a concussion of course, but otherwise he'll be back to himself soon."
"Is she worried about any permanent damage? Or something like bleeding on the brain?"
"No, I don't think so," Hermione replied, moving to take a seat in a chair between Harry's and Ron's beds. "She did say that he can have a couple guests for this hour, but then we'll have to go. No more than six at a time. I'm sure the team will be here soon."
"Do you want me to get Christian and Serenity from the hallway?"
"I don't think that's necessary, Evelyn. You don't want to overwhelm the poor guy." Ron interjected quickly. Hermione's head snapped toward him so quickly that Evelyn was worried it would fall off. She could see Ron sinking into the bed as Hermione’s eyes burned into him.
"You can, absolutely, Evie." Hermione said, her voice sterner—and her posture somewhat terrifying. For fear of what might happen if she didn’t listen to Hermione, Evelyn immediately turned on her heel and went to the door to pull her two friends into the wing. They came quickly, and as soon as Christian laid eyes on Hermione, he went to her, placing his hands on her shoulders and smiling down at her politely.
The gesture was enough to put Ron over the edge, and Hermione was lucky to be seated in such a way that her facial expressions weren't necessarily visible for Christian, who was focused on Harry. Her face twisted briefly into a scowl, and then into a deadpan. It felt as though her whole body was screaming, "You and Lavender were disgusting, and I dealt with it. So shut up." Even if Hermione wasn't thinking it, Evelyn was. Though she didn't know whether or not Ron could deal with it. He didn't have nearly the amount of grace or self-control that Hermione possessed.
Evelyn, however, turned her attention from the feud to Serenity, who was asking many of the same questions that she had.
"Will he wake up soon?" Christian asked, after Serenity had finished.
"Doubtful," Hermione said. "Pomfrey gave him a sleeping drought. I bet it will be hours before he wakes up."
"Maybe we can come back tomorrow, then, and visit with him for awhile." Christian said, mostly to Hermione. She smiled up at him, turning her head so that they made eye contact.
"He'd like that," Hermione returned, and purposefully ignored the snort Ron let out as a consequence.
"Need something, Ronald?" Evelyn asked, looking at him pointedly. "It sounds like your throat is dry."
"No," he muttered, a dark look settling on his face.
Serenity moved her discerning eyes across the scene, a knowing smile on her lips. The conversation died off, as everyone continued on in amiable silence (perhaps with the exception of Ron). Evie stayed by Harry’s bedside, with her hand on his, where she could hear his steady, reassuring breathing. She knew that it was somewhat inappropriate—though she had, on countless occasions, helped him up off the floor during their dueling lessons, stood close enough to rub elbows with him, and even shared a book between them, she had never established physical contact like this with him. It hadn't been apart of their friendship before his relationship with Ginny, and definitely had not been since. Frankly, she wasn't the type of person who often liked to be touched. It took a deep level of trust for her to allow someone to hug her, and even more for her to want to hug someone else. But, from the moment she had met Harry (or, perhaps, from the moment she’d woken from the fog after her memories had returned), she had recognized in him something that no one else seemed to have. It was a combination of empathy, nostalgia, desire, drive, and something else. Something she couldn't put her finger on, but that she recognized in her soul. She felt connected to him. It felt so natural, standing there worried and eager, holding his hand.
His fingers moved against hers, weaving between hers.
He probably thinks I'm Ginny, she thought bitterly, chewing her bottom lip, but refusing to let the opportunity be wasted. The moment was shattered just a few seconds later by the arrival of Ginny herself. She arrived with a literal bang, the door sweeping open behind her and clanging against the wall. The two beaters and Dean, all looking freshly showered from the game, trailed her. Evelyn was smart enough to remove her hand from Harry's as soon as she heard the clatter, but when Ginny rounded the corner and saw Evelyn standing at his bedside, she scowled.
"What are you doing here?" The question can bitterly from her mouth, her eyes flashing red. She had directed it Evelyn, but she made sure to cast her eyes to Serenity and Christian as well to soften the blow.
Evie was dumbstruck. While she hadn't been overly zealous in her friendship with Harry since their return from break, she didn't think that had removed her from the general category of friend. Unable to immediately respond, she turned her eyes to Hermione who, too, looked taken aback, but who was able to speak.
"We came straight from the game. Together." She emphasized the last word as politely as possible, checking the younger girl with a look. Ginny's mouth formed a straight line across her face, and it was clear she was attempting to figure out her next move. Hermione didn't give her the option, however, and continued on, "Harry was pretty badly injured, but he'll be okay. Madam Pomfrey has treated him, and you should be able to visit with him for awhile."
Ginny nodded, turning her eyes to Harry for the first time. Evelyn watched her watching him. Her eyes softened, and she took a step forward to the edge of his bed. She reached out to touch his foot, covered by the blanket, and as soon as she could feel him, warm and alive beneath her hand, she let out a soft sigh. It was almost indiscernible, and it would have gone unnoticed except that Evelyn was watching her so closely.
Ginny loved Harry. Completely. Evelyn could see it in her movements, and in the small ways she gave up her defenses.
"He'll be okay, then?"
"Yes, Pomfrey said not to worry." Hermione said. Ginny gave a curt nod, casting a quick scowl at Evelyn again before she turned her attention back to Hermione, who asked, "What took you so long?"
"McLaggen. We had a brief talk with him after the game."
Dean opened his mouth to interject, but Madame Pomfrey entered the room, shrilly reminding them that six visitors was capacity, and they were well over the number.
"Harry's friends should stay," Ginny said sharply, implying with a look that this included the members of the Quidditch team, Hermione, and the bedridden Ron. Evelyn had already begun to collect her things when Ginny spoke, and she tried desperately to push her indignation down. She felt the urge to slap Ginny or say something harsh, but she respected Harry and liked Ron. The confrontation wasn't worth the consequence. She hoped it was just the girl's immaturity that had sparked her insolence or, better yet, her anxiety over Harry's wellbeing.
"We're all Harry's friends," Hermione said quietly, looking stonily at Ginny. There was something flashing behind her eyes, but Evelyn couldn't place it properly. It was nearing indignation or disappointment. "And I think the four of us will be leaving. We've been here the longest anyway, and you should have some time with him."
Evelyn didn't say much of anything on her way out of the Hospital Wing or in the corridor as she walked alongside Hermione, Christian, and Serenity. Her goodbyes when the Ravenclaws left them were short and shallow, though she hugged Serenity for a few seconds longer than she would have typically. Serenity allowed it, making her feel deeply grateful.
The Gryffindors walked several yards before either spoke. Hermione broke the silence first, "I'm sorry for what Ginny said. I hope you know that's not how I feel, or how Ron feels, or even how Harry feels. He'll be embarrassed if he finds out she acted that way."
Evelyn shrugged, "She always acts that way towards me." She paused for a moment, and then added, "And you have nothing to be sorry about. I know what she said wasn't true."
Her tone was that of a person trying to convince themselves that what they were saying was true, but whether Hermione recognized that or not, Evelyn was relieved that she said nothing about it. Instead, Hermione said matter-of-factly, "She acts that way because she sees how Harry is with you."
Evelyn crinkled her brow, casting a sidelong glance at Hermione. "He's just himself with me? I don't think he treats me any different that he treats you."
They had reached the Fat Lady's portrait, and Hermione paused to give the password. She was smirking a bit as she listened to Evelyn, who was curious but politely defensive. "He treats you differently. He always has."
"You mean like when he was watching my every move because he thought I was some kind of double agent?" Evelyn allowed herself to laugh at the absurdity of the situation, wishing Harry himself was there to hear this teasing accusation. She could just imagine the blush that would sweep across his face as he messed up his hair and tried to come back with the right retort.
"Don't be daft, Evelyn," Hermione chuckled but her tone was serious. They were hovering outside the portrait hole, and the Fat Lady was beginning to grumble at their slow pace. "He's different with you. Even before your memories came back there was something there. She's threatened by you."
Evelyn took in Hermione's words, turning each over in her mind as if they were a set of precious stones that Hermione had gifted her. The reply that came to her mind hurt to think as much as it did to say, but she couldn't stop herself.
"He chose her."
Hermione responded with a sad, solemn nod and reached a hand behind Evelyn's shoulders to give her a half-hug. They walked together in that embrace into the common room, the Fat Lady happy to finally close behind them.
Credits: Text in bold comes from J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.
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