Evelyn sat close to Harry, leaning across his arm to point to a passage in his Herbology textbook, which they had been looking through to help round out their essays. Her finger moved across the page, spotting the line she needed and following, word for word, as she copied the quotation onto her parchment. Harry followed her finger as well, jotting the same quote and smiling brightly at her after dotting his period at the end of the sentence.
The writing was coming along slowly, as small victories like these were often awarded with a kiss or two. Ron sat across from them, a persistent wrinkle in his nose that deepened every time they kissed. He said nothing, however, which Evelyn took to be a simultaneous acknowledgment of all they had endured while he was with Lavender and a compromise that allowed him to remove himself from an otherwise uncomfortable decision between his best friend and his sister.
Evelyn was halfway through her next sentence, dissecting the quotation and its relevance to her argument, when a shadow crossed the table and she heard Harry address another student. He was silent for a moment and then said quickly, "Hey, it's from Dumbledore!"
She looked up to see him unrolling a slim piece of parchment, and Ron leaning forward, his eyebrows raised in excitement. She could feel her own brows furrowing in confusion as she watched the boys. Professor Dumbledore had not yet called her back to his office, though she was relatively certain Harry had been successful in getting what he needed from Professor Slughorn. She realized suddenly that it had been some time since their last meeting, and she wondered what had been keeping the Headmaster—and why he would have chosen Harry over her in that moment.
"He wants me to go to his office as quick as I can." Harry said, his voice soft yet excited. The paper inched back into a roll, hanging limply in Harry's hand as he stared at Ron.
Ron stared back, his mouth gaping a bit, "Blimey, you don't reckon? He hasn't found?"
"Hasn't found what?" Evelyn interrupted, forcefully reminding them of her presence. She had been wondering if it’d be appropriate to accompany Harry to the Headmaster’s office to see if he’d have a moment to speak that evening, but if he’d found something that they were this excited about then she knew she couldn’t ask. As she thought it through, something in her gut instinctively tightened. Maybe it was the look on Ron’s face, which she was realizing wasn’t exactly excitement, but she felt what the Headmaster had found couldn't be good—whatever it was. A creeping fear settled over her, increased by Harry's deliberate pause in response to her question.
"I-I don't have time to explain." Was all Harry could muster. He began to gather up his Herbology materials, shoving them into his bag and handing it off to Ron to be deposited in their dormitory. "I'm sorry, Evie."
"Harry! You can't be serious—where are you going?" She stood up, walking with him toward the portrait hole without being invited.
"I'm going to Dumbledore's office."
"What does he have? Why can't you tell me?"
"Because it's complicated, and he needs me right now—but I want to tell you." He paused outside the portrait hole, leaving the Fat Lady hanging out towards the wall. It was quieter and darker in the corridor. The light spilling out from the common room cast strange shadows across Harry's face, but even then she could see his eyes were filled with sincerity. He looked nearly pleading. He reached for her hands, taking both of them in his and squeezing them gently. "As soon as I get back."
"Can I help?" She didn't know what else to say. She knew she couldn't make him stay, and though the fear was moving deeper and deeper into her gut, she couldn't articulate it. She didn't want to be overbearing. He had told her how that tendency in Ginny had made him feel, and she didn't want to muck up the first chance she had been given to trust him.
"You can't. Not more than you already have—you know my dueling is better now, and you've prepared me for nearly anything." His lips quirked up on one side, half smiling and half smirking.
"So, it's dangerous then?" Her voice sounded small, and she hated it.
He didn't respond, which was all the response she needed. Instead, he said cautiously, "As soon as I get back, you’ll know everything." He reached up to tuck a loose curl behind her ear, and planted a quick kiss on her lips. "Now get back in there and finish that Herbology essay. I'll need something to copy before class tomorrow."
Evelyn walked stiffly through the common room, passing Ron without acknowledgment and heading straight up the girls' staircase to her dormitory. She wasn’t sure where Hermione was, but the rest of the girls were in the library studying for their upcoming exams and she was glad to have the room to herself.
She lowered herself onto her bed, reaching down to take off her shoes before deciding against it. The fear in her gut was still twisting menacingly, and she knew she couldn't relax. Shoes still on, she brought her feet onto her quilt and inched back towards her pillows. Her eyes weren't fixed on anything in particular, and she felt them begin to glaze over as she lost herself in thought. Harry was going to meet Dumbledore—who had something or knew where something was—and somehow this was dangerous. She knew that there were dark objects all over the wizarding world, like the cursed opals that Katie Bell had touched, and she couldn’t fathom what Professor Dumbledore might have found or how Harry was meant to help him with it. She didn’t know anything really, which drove her crazy. She hated not knowing the rest. And she resented the Headmaster for not asking for her, for not telling her what Harry had gotten from Professor Slughorn like he’d promised. What if the two were connected? What if she could have been helpful, and Harry just didn’t know because she hadn’t told him about the prophecy yet?
Without more details or directions, she was left with a wild imagination, a horrible feeling, and nothing logical to counter the two. She racked her brain for facts that would make her feel better. Harry was with Albus Dumbledore, one of the greatest wizards alive. Professor Dumbledore cared for Harry, and she knew he would do everything in his power to protect him. Harry, too, was a great wizard who could handle himself. He was excellent at disarming, quick on his feet, and braver than anyone she’d ever met. These fluttered through her mind, but anxiety still gnawed at her.
Does Harry not trust me?
The thought was a lightening rod among the storm clouds rumbling through her mind. They hadn't been together long. In fact, they were barely anything. After agreeing they both wanted more than stolen moments in the corridor, they’d never really talked about it again. They had been too busy bantering over meals, kissing between dueling sessions, and laughing under trees near the lake with their friends to put a label on it. Evelyn was certain they had something more concrete than the casual thing that Hermione and Christian had, but they certainly didn’t have anything as official as George and Marie. Could Harry even be expected to trust her—this non-girlfriend—then? She had felt he had, that their trust had been implicit and implied, but perhaps that had been a dangerous assumption. If she were being honest, she herself hadn't trusted him with everything yet. She still hadn't told him the prophecy.
Did that mean she didn't trust him, or did that simply mean she hadn't had the courage to pop their new relationship bubble, which had made her feel weightless for the first time in nearly a year?
These questions, muddled with fear and anxiety, beat wildly through her head. She tried to focus on anything else, but failed. She tried to remember that only a few minutes ago she had been in the common room with Harry, enjoying a perfectly normal evening over homework, but that didn’t help. Her stomach ached, and she wished she could tell someone all the thoughts that were blowing around her head. Unfortunately, the one person she wanted to tell was Harry—and that wasn’t an option.
A small part of her resented how wildly her heart and her gut had run off, thinking bitterly that she shouldn't have such intense feelings for a guy so quickly. Her brain offered feeble attempts at logic. She had liked him for nearly the entire school year, and he had been the first person that she felt she could be herself with—but this rationale was batted away again and again by the horrible feeling in her gut. Her inner dialogue walked circles around itself, the same arguments rising up and fizzling out again and again. She dreaded the night. She'd never make it through.
The creak of the door eventually broke up her thoughts, and Evelyn's eyes darted to the figure leaning into the room through the partially opened door. She was relieved to see it was Hermione, and she half-whispered a hollow greeting to her friend.
"Harry's been by—he was quite serious. I think you need to come down to the common room with me."
"Is he back?" Evelyn hoped her intonation wasn't too desperate sounding.
"No," her chest deflated at Hermione's words, "He came back to get a-a cloak. He’s going somewhere with Professor Dumbledore."
"Well then, what's the deal?"
Hermione's mouth was a thin line, and Evelyn felt the anxiety in her gut twist deeper as her friend said, "It'll be easier if you come with me."
Evelyn nodded, inching towards the edge of the bed and taking a sweater that had been draped over her bedside table. Though it was warm during the days, the spring evenings in Scotland were cool and the castle air almost cold. Shrugging it on, she followed Hermione obediently out of the room and down the stairwell. She was led to a quiet corner of the common room, where Ron had stretched a large piece of parchment across an abandoned table. Ginny, Neville, and Luna Lovegood stood beside him, consulting one another in hushed tones. The common room was still relatively occupied, but most students were focused intently on their work. The room had a studious air to it. A few hours ago, it had been a pleasant environment. Now, everything felt off-kilter and Evelyn was uneasy. As she approached with Hermione, Ginny's eyes moved over her, the redhead's lips flattening into a hard line.
"Right," Ron said by way of greeting, following his sister's gaze and nodding briefly at Evie. "Do you think anyone else will come, Hermione?"
"I'm not sure. I pushed the signal through twice, but they could be headed to the Room of Requirement since that was where we used to meet. Luna—what made you come here instead?"
"The princeps, of course. They led me right to you." The Ravenclaw replied in a dreamy, yet authoritative tone.
"Right," Ron repeated, looking warily at Hermione. She bit her lip and shook her head in response. Instead of adding anything, Ron turned his eyes to the parchment. Evelyn did, too, and for the first time realized what was laid out before them. It was an entire blueprint of Hogwarts, and most of the grounds. Fascinatingly enough, there were small marks moving across the page, each flagged with a name.
Her eyes followed a pair—Seamus Finnegan and Dean Thomas—which were moving towards Gryffindor Tower. Inside, she saw marks for herself, Hermione, Ron, Ginny, Neville, and Luna clustered together towards the corner furtherest from the door. The map, so meticulously laid out, was brilliant in its ability to track movement. She watched as the Seamus and Dean dots moved into the common room, her eyes seeing them on paper as her ears heard their approach. With accuracy that advanced, it could only be one thing.
"Is this enchanted with a Homonculous Charm?" Evie gasped, nudging her way closer and placing her hand on the worn parchment.
Ron, who clearly was uncertain, made an expression that immediately showed his deference to Hermione, who caught Evelyn's eye with her enthusiastic nodding.
"It's done up perfectly," Evelyn said in awe, her eyes moving to the library where Serenity and Christian were seated at their regular table, presumably working on the same essay that she'd been completing earlier with Harry.
Hermione opened her mouth to respond, but Ron interrupted impatiently, "We can admire the map tomorrow. Right now, I think we should do what Harry asked."
"What was that?" Evelyn asked eagerly. Out of the corner of her eye, she could see Ginny make a face and cross her arms over her chest.
"Patrol the halls; stay on the lookout for Malfoy." Ron responded resolutely.
Turning her eyes back to the map, Evelyn's scanned the Slytherian common room and nearby halls. "Have you seen Malfoy anywhere yet?"
"No," Ron admitted, grunting disappointedly.
"What about my sister? If he's around, she won't be far from him. Not after what happened in the bathroom."
"She's not anywhere either."
"Harry thinks that means they're in the Room of Requirement. That's his theory at least." Hermione said, pointing to a corner of the map where the room should have been but wasn't. "We should send a group there to keep watch for Malfoy and your sister."
"Another group should patrol the dungeons, and get as close to the common room as you can. In case Harry's wrong or they slip past us." Evelyn said. She swore she heard Ginny mutter something under her breath, and she cast a disapproving look at the younger Gryffindor that resulted in a returned scowl.
Hermione ignored or missed the exchange, offering herself for the dungeons. "I can take the long way, and check most of the corridors on my way down. I'm a Prefect, so it's unlikely anyone will stop me."
"I'll go with you," Luna volunteered, smiling in her soft manner.
Hermione nodded. "I think the rest of you should go to the Room of Requirement. If Malfoy and Elizabeth are there, you'll need everyone you can get. And, Ron's a Prefect, too. So, he has a bit of authority if a professor finds you all out this late."
"We should get Serenity and Christian. They'll want to help."
Hermione nodded, and Ron shot Evelyn a grim smile, adding tersely, "Welcome to Dumbledore's Army."
Evelyn's head was still spinning as she moved deftly through the stacks, her neck craning around each corner as if her sister or Draco Malfoy may be lurking behind any of them. Logically, she knew they wouldn't—couldn't —be because they weren't on the map. Or, at least they hadn't been when she'd parted with Ron and the others. She hoped that fact wouldn't change before she had a chance to find Serenity and Christian. The two Ravenclaws were some of the smartest people she'd ever encountered, and she knew that if Harry's fears were well-founded that the newly reunited D.A. would need them.
Her feet found their way to the table before her brain realized they were there, and she stared dumbly at Serenity and Christian for a moment before speaking.
"I'm surprised to see you this far from Harry's face," Serenity chided in greeting, "I've barely seen you take in air all week."
"Something's happened," was all she was able to blurt out, and her face must have explained the rest because the grin dropped from Serenity's face and Christian's brow furrowed intently. "We need your help. If you want to." She bit her lip nervously for a moment before adding, "I won't demand it of you. It could be dangerous—but I couldn't go into this without asking you, too."
"Explain." Christian said softly. His tone was more encouraging than demanding, and she appreciated it.
Nodding her agreement, she replied, "Alright—but not here. We've got to go out into the corridor or find an empty classroom. It's not safe here."
The Ravenclaws packed up hurriedly, and followed Evelyn back through the stacks, their feet quick and light across the old stone floors. In the corridor, Evelyn pulled out her wand and muttered an enchantment. Then, she added another.
"We can talk here." She declared, more to herself then to her two friends, who shared a nearly identical look, reminiscent of bewilderment and excitement. Then, she began, telling them first about Harry's mysterious note and his refusal to divulge details, and then, about Hermione coming for her, the map, and the army that she had recently learned her boyfriend—or whatever he was—had led.
"I knew it!" Christian announced, elbowing Serenity as if to remind her of something, but her eyes never left Evelyn, who had already continued on, telling them next about Draco Malfoy's and her sister's absence from the map, and, lastly, about their plan to stake out the Room of Requirement and the dungeons until Harry and Dumbledore returned.
"If Harry's right," Evelyn concluded, "Then something terrible could happen here. Tonight."
"How could anyone get into the castle? It's protected." Serenity said, her tone simple and serious.
"I don't know," Evelyn admitted, "But I trust Harry, and I think that if anyone could get in, it would be because of Ellie." The grim feeling in her belly had expanded and, as they stood there in the corridor hashing things out, Evelyn felt exposed. She moved her hand to the inside pocket of her cloak and pulled out her wand.
Serenity's mouth was a hard line, and her eyes swept the corridor sharply before coming back to Christian, and then Evelyn.
"I hope you're wrong." She said softly, reaching into her own cloak and pulling out her wand.
"I hope so, too." Evie said softly, though her instincts were screaming that she wasn't.
"Show us the way." Christian said, producing his own wand. He looked almost childlike in the torch light, and she suppressed a smile that felt warranted but out of place in the moment. In all the months she had known him, Christian had voiced several times that he wanted to fight, in some capacity, against the Dark Lord. He had been eager to study, to progress, and to get qualified. He was brilliant in the classroom, strong in his morality, and eager to contribute. She had long thought over how to introduce him to the Order without giving too much away.
Serenity, on the other hand, had been more reserved in her rebellion. Though she was against everything the Dark Lord stood for and was repulsed by the headlines that had plagued them all year—disappearances, torture, murders—she wasn't sure that there was anything for her to contribute. Her spellcasting and defense were strong, she was astute and highly critical, but she wasn't necessarily combative. She worried, too, about the ramifications of the war, the state of the ministry, and her mother. Her thinking was highly political, and the struggle between the theoretical and the call to do what was right was written plainly on her face in that moment.
Evelyn reached for her friend, grasping her wrist and forcing Serenity to make eye contact with her. "Are you sure? You don't have to come."
Something moved behind Serenity's hawkish eyes, as if a part of her was clicking into place. She replied nervously, "I don’t think I can just wait to see what happens."
That was enough. Evie motioned for the pair to follow her, and they made their way quickly towards the location where Ron would be waiting with the others. The halls were long, and the path to the the Room of Requirement felt endless. Evelyn's heart seemed to beat in sync with the rapid pattern of their footsteps on the ancient flagstone. Every corner brought uncertainty and fear that whatever horrible thing Harry thought might happen had already happened. She wished she had the map. She wished Ron had agreed to come with her to the library. She wished Hermione wasn't in the dungeons.
Nothing has happened yet, she reassured herself, calm down. Her hand was sweaty, and she tightened her grip on her wand. She needed to concentrate, to have a level head. If she didn't, her dueling skills would be no use to anyone. She took a deep breath, recognizing the series of paintings on the wall as they turned the corner and knowing they were close.
She could remember a time when she had been proud and oblivious, when she had felt as though nothing could phase her, but, as her eyes adjusted to the new corridor, she remembered too what it had been like to stumble over her mother’s dead body. To be so unwittingly struck by death, to be so unprepared for a new reality—and then to have to accept that reality completely: this was a feeling that stuck with a person. This was a feeling from which a person never recovered. Instead, it wore down a space in your soul and took up residence. She'd never feel surprise like that again because she would always fear it's coming.
Around the next corner, she saw Ron, Ginny, and Neville, who had all snapped attentively towards the oncoming sound of footsteps, wands raised. Ron and Neville lowered theirs immediately as they recognized the trio. Ginny took a beat, looking angry. Evelyn had a feeling the younger girl would always look at her that way.
"Thanks for coming." Ron said stiffly to Christian and Serenity, shifting his eyes down towards the other end of the corridor and back again.
Briefly, Evie considered how out of place Ron looked without Harry or Hermione by his side. She'd grown so use to him as an addition—a plus one in her time with Hermione or in her new relationship with Harry. But, as he began to run over the plan he had formulated, she realized how capable he was without his best friends and how much he contributed in his own way.
"Neville, Ginny, and I have scouted out the hall. It's deserted, and this time of night I bet it'll stay that way. We're far enough from the library that we won't get much foot traffic when it closes in a half hour, and we're not close enough to any of the common rooms for students to wander this way. Prefects will be starting their patrols soon, but I doubt they’ll pass through here. It's known for being a dead spot. Typically, only Hermione insists on sweeping this one."
"Right, what can we do?" Christian asked, looking nearly eager.
"I think it's best for a few of us to stay here, and the others to flank either end of the hallway in case Malfoy's in there and he gets past us.
"I was thinking Ginny and I would stand guard here. Evelyn and Neville can take one end, you and Serenity can take the other."
"I think I should be here with you, Ron. In case my sister's in there. I'm the only one here that can take her on in a duel—no offense." Evelyn said, casting an apologetic look at Ginny that was not appreciated.
"I don't think you should be in the first line of defense," Ron replied, for the first time sounding uncertain.
"Ron, don't—you know I can handle her. I might be one of the best—"
Ron, whose cheekbones were made more angular by the blush that had appeared on them, looked uncomfortable as he cut her off with a rushed mutter. "Harry told me to protect you."
Beside him, his sister growled. Ginny's face was white, and her lips were strained into a thin pucker. She looked like her mother.
"What?" Evelyn asked dumbly.
Ron, casting a glance at his sister, replied, "Evie, don't make me repeat it. I mean, you can't be surprised. Just–just do this for me, please."
The anxious, foreboding feeling in her stomach was suddenly supplanted by a furious thing that trampled through her. Through gritted teeth, she replied, "Elizabeth—she always goes right, when she duels. She can't help it." Then she stalked down the hallway, Neville sending an uncomfortable look at the crowd before following a few steps behind her.
By the time Evie reached the turn in the corridor, the furious feeling had unfurled, and she felt undermined. Her mind was running wild with thoughts: she had been the one to train Harry, the one he had sought out (just weeks after meeting her) to teach him, the one he'd confided in. He had even gone so far as to admit that this ability to protect herself and her confidence in combat was one of the things that had attracted him to her. And, after a few kisses and some feelings, he had seemingly forgotten all of that and felt that he had the right to ask Ron to protect her. Ron, she thought with an internal scoff, who could barely complete his Transfiguration homework without Hermione berating him!
When Neville rounded the corner, she exploded. "How dare he!"
Neville, who looked sympathetic but uneasy, placed a clammy hand on her shoulder and said only, "You have to be quieter, Evie."
She clamped her mouth shut, her neck hot and her eyes narrowing at Neville despite the fact that she knew he was right and, worse yet, that he didn't deserve the brunt of her anger. She gave a harsh nod in response, muttering, "Just you wait. When he gets back."
She'd spend the time they waited there, standing guard, thinking up all the different ways she could torture Harry. Perhaps she'd transfigured him into a cat and keep him for the summer—or transfigured his broom into a toothpick and snap it in half.
Her mind was still dreaming up scenarios that, each time, ended with Harry apologizing profusely for considering her a damsel in distress and underestimating her independence and aptitude when it happened. The door appeared, banging against the wall determinedly. There, in plain view, stood Draco and Elizabeth. He was clutching her hand with his left and, in his right, held a horrifying shriveled thing that Evelyn couldn't quite comprehend from her distance. They saw Ron and Ginny instantly as there weren't many places to hide, and without so much as a word Elizabeth threw something out of her cloak. Immediately, darkness erupted from the spot, moving down the corridor with terrific speed. Evelyn tried to cast a shield charm to protect them from it, but it blew threw the spell like a black fog. They were blind. The darkness was so deep, it felt as if God had doused the sun.
Beside her, where she was certain Neville was, she heard a tentative voice cast Lumos, but nothing happened.
Evelyn, dumb and uncertain of what else to do, tried the same spell. Nothing.
"Neville?" Her voice sounded foreign to her in the darkness.
"I'm here," he replied, and she felt rigid fingers fumble at her shoulder awkwardly. She seized them with her own hand, locking her grip in his. She wouldn't lose him, if she could. The silence was overwhelming, and Evelyn could feel her ears straining just as much as her eyes. Then Neville's voice came again, this time softer. "I don't think they saw us."
"We have two choices: wait and see if they come this way, or start to move further away and see if we can eventually find the light. I don't think this was a spell."
"It's not. It's from Fred and George's joke shop. I can't remember what it's called, but I’ve seen them use it before."
"How long does it last?"
"I-I don’t remember,” Neville stammered guiltily, “Knowing them, it could be hours or days. They never do things by halves."
She smiled, though no one could see her. "Okay. Wait or move then?"
Neville didn’t have a chance to respond. A shuffling sound greeted them, signaling that someone was headed their way. The pace was assured even in the darkness as if they could see somehow, and Evelyn knew from the stride who it was before Malfoy spoke.
"Once everyone's together, I'm going to the tower to cast it. Elizabeth will take you from there."
Evelyn shifted her weight further into the wall, pulling Neville's hand back with her until she felt his body align with hers. She tried to slow her breathing, and despite the darkness closed her eyes. She listened as intently as she could.
"Someone's sounding confident." A different voice, unfamiliar and nasally, said snidely.
"My plan's worked perfectly so far, so you're right I'm bloody confident." Malfoy spoke again, this time with more venom. "Watch your step, Amycus."
The voices grew softer as they drifted further down the corridor. They were safe for now, Evelyn thought. Neville's grip relaxed within her grasp. She listened again, trying to discern sounds in the silence. It felt like decades before they heard anything.
A tinny clank cut the air followed by an exclaimed expletive. The sound was close, followed by a shuffling noise and a shush.
Hesitantly, Evelyn called, "Ron? Is that you?"
The shuffling abruptly stopped, and several beats of silence fell between her question and the answer.
"Evie?" The voice came, sounding more familiar.
"And Neville, yeah." She replied.
"I think they've all gone. Ginny and I heard them come by, but nothing will light. Malfoy was leading them with the Hand of Glory. They could be anywhere by now. We've got to go."
"Where's Christian and Serenity?"
"I-I don't know. We never heard them come our way. They must’ve gone the other way to find light."
"At least they went in the opposite direction of the Death Eaters." Neville piped up beside her.
"Yeah, lucky us." Ginny finally spoke, her voice so sardonic she could imagine the youngest Weasley's expression despite the blinding darkness.
"We've got to go." Ron repeated, this time more urgently. "Hermione and Luna are out there, and they don't know what's happened. They don't have the map. They could be in danger."
"Ron? Do you think you can find me and Neville? We're against the wall. If you can, we can follow the wall until we reach light. It's the—"
Something thudded heavily into her side, cutting her off and forcing air out of her lungs awkwardly. She coughed, startled.
"That's me," she wheezed and Ron sheepishly apologized once for hitting her and then again and again as he fumbled into her in his search for the wall. Eventually, she felt his body move to the stone beside her.
As soon as she was sure they were in position, she gave Neville's hand a squeeze. "Lead the way, Neville."
They moved as quickly as they could, but even that speed didn't feel fast enough. Their progress was slow, and Evelyn felt they had walked several yards before the darkness began to ebb. The light, however, urged them on and eventually they were trotting forward. In her panic, she couldn't quite tell where in the castle they were, but, surprisingly, Neville seemed to know, quickening his pace as light fully broke across the scene.
"This way!" He said confidently, gesturing to the next right turn. They took the corner sharp, nearly running now.
"Wotcher, you lot!" A new voice greeted them as they came into the new corridor, and Evelyn focused her eyes, which were still adjusting, on a crop of wildly colored hair. Nymphadora Tonks stood, wand arm out, with Remus Lupin and her Aunt Demeter.
"What have you four been up to?" Demeter asked, her brow raised in response to what must have been shaken expressions across all of their face. She reached her arm out to Evelyn, taking her niece by the shoulder in an attempt to either slow her down or keep her in place. Evelyn had nearly kept going, certain that Serenity, Christian, and Hermione were already in danger or would be soon. She needed to find them. She needed to find Elizabeth.
"Harry thought Malfoy had found a way to get Death Eaters into the castle— he was right," Ron rushed through breathlessly, and Evelyn was grateful he'd taken the liberty of explaining because her brain was running too wild to formulate sentences. Ron continued, "They got past us. Darkness powder. We were following them."
The muscle in Remus's jaw visibly tensed, and the knuckles on his wand hand tightened into white knobs. His eyes went first to Tonks and then to Demeter. The women each shared a knowing look with him in turn, as if this had been the exact explanation they'd expected.
"I think it best for you four to return to Gryffindor Tower. To keep all the students there safe." Remus said measuredly.
"No bloody way." Ron fired back, "Hermione's out there. She's in the dungeons with Luna."
"And our other friends from Ravenclaw. They were separated from us, but they know the Death Eaters are here. They won't just go back to their common room. They'll fight. And we should be there with them." Neville joined, looking just as determined as Ron.
"Harry, too. He left with Dumbledore, but he'll be back. We need to make sure the castle is safe for them when they return." Ginny supplied a third reason, and Evelyn tried to ignore the hot feeling that crept under her collar as Ginny spoke about keeping Harry safe.
Evelyn stumbled over her reason, the three adults turning their eyes expectantly to her as if she, too, needed to contribute something or she'd be forced back into the common room. "Elizabeth was with Malfoy. She's behind this too. I-I have to stop her."
A dark glint shone in her aunt's eyes as Evelyn looked up at her. Both Demeter and Minerva had been fully briefed on her examination of the prophecy and her meetings with Professor Dumbledore. Evie knew instantly that Demeter understood what had gone unsaid: Evie was the only one who could take on Ellie. Neither of them said any more, and they each knew there wasn't room for further argument. They didn't have the time.
"Let them in on the fun, Remus. It's about time." Tonks said finally, sending a wink towards Ron and nudging her elbow into Remus's side playfully. His neck flushed, but he knew that he had lost this argument.
"Stay close," was his response. "Defend yourselves only. Don't provoke them. Remember: this isn't class, this isn't practice. They'll kill you, and they'll think it's fun."
With that as their pep talk, each student tightened their grip on their wands and followed the Order members down the corridor towards the main stairwell. As they moved, Evelyn's head was spinning through everything. She was thinking about her sister, and if this was the night the prophecy had hinted at. Would they duel? Would one of them die so the other could live? She was thinking about Christian and Serenity, and where that corridor led, and where she thought they would go—and, worse yet, whose path they might cross. She was thinking about Harry, and where he had gone with Dumbledore, and how much time they had to get the castle in order. How many did they have to face? How many students would be out of bed at this time? Where would they start?
Something clicked into place, and as they reached the top of the stairs and Remus led them down the first few steps, she stopped and shouted, "No, we've got to go the other way. Towards the astronomy tower."
"The tower?" Tonks asked, bewildered in tone and look.
"When they passed us—in the dark—Malfoy said he needed to go to the tower. It's the highest point, and it's the one closest to here. That has to be what he was talking about."
"That's right! He said he was going there to cast it." Neville said in agreement.
"It?" Remus's voice reached a wary pitch.
Evelyn furrowed her brow, replying, "He didn't say what it was, just that he was going there to cast—"
"The Dark Mark. That's got to be what they were referring to."
"But, Remus, they only cast it when—" Demeter never finished her sentence, but she didn't have to. Evelyn knew what she meant; they all did. The words alone brought back the image of the shimmering mark hovering over the hole in her mother's bedroom, casting shadows across her still frame.
Before any more could be said, they turned on the stairs and began to move quickly through the castle towards the tower.
As they approached the corridor that led to the tower’s stairwell, they could hear raised voices. One was almost petulant in its rebuttals, the other condescending and dumb. The first, Evelyn realized as they slowed, was Draco Malfoy's.
"You haven't listened to the plan—you've disregarded me entirely."
"Gibbon's already beat you to it, Draco. Just let him have it. You don't always get what you want, especially when your daddy isn't here to give it to you." The second voice replied.
Then a new voice interrupted, almost saccharine in its sweetness. "Amycus, why don't you shut your mouth and listen to your superiors for once?"
That was Elizabeth's voice. Not only did Evelyn recognize it, but she could tell her aunt did as well by the stillness that fell over her.
"That Mudblood Ravenclaw deserved it!"
Evelyn's heart twisted, her mind jumping to Serenity.
"Not every bastard child is a Mudblood, you idiot, and if you don’t start listening you can be sure our Lord will hear how your insubordinate behavior jeopardized Draco’s plan. He’s expecting a full report from me."
Serenity, whose father had abandoned her as a baby and whose mother hadn't shared a single detail about him with her, including her blood status, couldn't have been the only potential-Mudblood Ravenclaw at Hogwarts in 1997, but, Evelyn reasoned, she was most likely the only one who had been out of bed that night.
Something seemed to possess her as she reached that conclusion, and before she could gain control of it, she moved boldly around the corner towards the small crowd of Death Eaters that stood vigil near the entrance to the tower's stairs. At first, they didn't seem to notice her.
And then, Draco drawled a single word, nonchalant in his tone but not in his body: "Company."
Evelyn cast a quick Transfiguration spell, aimed at the one who must have been Amycus, but it was quickly deflected. She advanced, shooting off another and another. It was clear Draco was searching for something as she moved, the other Order members coming in behind her, but he never found it. He still clutched the shriveled, horrible thing that Ron had known the name of. She aimed her wand at it, blasting it out of his hands.
"Where is Serenity?"
"How big of you, Evie. Always cared so much for your friends," Elizabeth chided, looking annoyed. She had her own wand drawn, but she hadn't cast anything. Amycus on the other hand was giggling, firing haphazardly at the advancing Order members and students.
For some reason, this nonchalance, this air of boredom and inconvenience, was the thing that tipped Evelyn over the edge. She gritted her teeth, turning her wand towards her sister, and growled, "Fuck you, Ellie."
That was when everything went to shit. The corridor exploded with spells, as Order members took on Death Eaters and members of Dumbledore's Army took on Slytherians. Evie's eyes never left her sister's as they carved a space out of the corridor for themselves.
"Alarte Ascendare!" Elizabeth said, only just missing her sister and instead launching a suit of armor into the air behind her. It landed near two men who were fighting viciously on the floor—one who seemed to be attempting to bite the other. Evelyn couldn't chance another glance to confirm the sight. Her mind was racing for a spell that Elizabeth wouldn't suspect, one that she hadn't defended from her countless times before.
"Something on your mind, Evie?" Her voice called out casually, as she shot another hex towards her.
Evelyn deflected it, gritting her teeth and casting, "Immobulous!"
Elizabeth's wand cut through the air, repelling the charm. She laughed, her wand still held high and her arm long and elegant. "Second-year charms? You've lost your touch."
She quickly retorted with the first hex that came to mind, but as the spell left her lips a brute force knocked Evelyn to the side, sending her spell careening towards Ron. It barely missed him. A man was knocking his way through the crowd, heading towards the staircase and, taking it in leaps, quickly disappearing from view. In that moment of disruption, Elizabeth took the opportunity to shoot a cutting curse at her sister. Evelyn's attention was caught by the sound of her sister's voice, but she wasn't quick enough. The curse slammed into the side of her head, and a sharp pain shot across her cheek and ear.
"You always were second-rate," Elizabeth sneered, and in that moment, Evelyn was struck by the terrifying and monstrous expression that had twisted her sister’s face. Elizabeth had always been beautiful, but now she looked like a harpy with harsh lines cutting angles across her face and hard eyes. When had this happened? The transformation was so subtle but consuming that Evelyn wondered if it had started years ago. Each new line, carving crude anger into the youthful face of her twin sister, had taken its time to fully root itself, coming into being so slowly that no one had realized.
Evelyn pushed down the terror she felt and cast the knee-reversing hex, spitting back vehemently, "You always were such a disappointment." Her spell didn't hit her sister, but as Elizabeth moved to the left to avoid it, she was knocked by the man who had disappeared up the staircase a moment ago as he returned to the scene. He was struck almost immediately by the killing curse, and his body began to fall into Elizabeth, who gave an angry, shocked cry as she stumbled and tried to regain her balance.
That moment was all Evie needed. She quickly cast a stunning spell, hitting her sister squarely in the chest. As Elizabeth's body locked into place and fell rigidly to the ground, a victorious grin spread across Evelyn's face and she took a moment to waggle her eyebrows at her sister, whose upturned face was frozen in its furious lines.
She pivoted, taking in the rest of the scene. As she did so, the grin fell from her face. A red headed man was bleeding on the floor, violent tears across his face and arms. Her heart beat wildly as she tried to ascertain whether or not it was Ron. She moved quickly to his side, using her wand to perform a few simple first aid charms. They didn't do much, but the man groaned beneath her wand and she knew two things: he was alive, and he wasn't Ron Weasley. She tented him in a shield charm, knowing it was too risky to move him, and turned her eyes back to the battle.
A massive Death Eater was firing off jinxes hap-hazardously, as if it was his first day off the train. Tonks seemed to be attempting to engage him, in an effort perhaps to contain his fire more than anything, and was only just succeeding. Ron, Ginny, Lupin, and both of her aunts were each paired with a Death Eater who seemed intent on fighting. It was clear other Order members had joined the fight at some point, but it had only allowed them to match the Death Eaters body for body. The duels were intently raging, and from her standpoint, it looked like many of the Order members were waning.
Despite the melee, her eyes landed on a pair of feet not quite obscured by a nearby suit of armor. Based on the sneakers alone, she knew it to be a student and, volleying a few spells over her shoulder to protect herself, she took off towards them to see if they were okay. It was Neville, who grimaced in pain as she arrived, swearing softly under his breath.
"Nothing serious," he grunted as she looked at him questioningly, her eyes landing immediately on a deep gash and burn across his thigh. Whatever curse it had been had seared off his jeans, leaving the wound. "Hurts is all."
Evelyn quickly cast a numbing spell, smiling a little. "That should help with the pain, just until we can get you to Madam Pomfrey."
"What about you?" Neville asked, reaching up to her face and wiping something from it. He pulled his fingers back to show her, and she noticed they were smeared with her blood.
Evelyn was shocked to see those red fingers in front of her face, but she remembered her training. She forced herself to remain calm. "I'll be okay. Can you get up?"
She let Neville lean some of his weight on to her as he stood, but as soon as he was up, he was steady on his feet. More commotion erupted in the corridor and new Death Eaters appeared. Neville was quickly trusted to bear the full weight of his body as Evelyn left his side with her wand raised.
Surprisingly, however, the new arrivals didn't engage. Evelyn fired a hex, but they simply blocked the advance and kept moving past the Order members and their counterparts towards the staircase. Whatever was up there was important. She needed to get up there.
Neville must have had the same thought because, before she could speak, he was moving. Half limping, half running, he catapulted himself into the wake of the Death Eaters. As his foot reached the edge of the stairwell, his body was thrown back into the air. He seemed to somersault gracefully for a moment before colliding with the suit of armor that had previously been his haven and crumpling to the ground just behind her.
"Neville!" Evelyn exclaimed, dropping back down to his side as if she'd never left it. "Neville, are you okay?"
He was unconscious, and she wildly pulled for his arm, pushing his shoulder back and freeing his wrist from the twists of his body. She tried to calm herself, breathing purposefully as she felt around for his pulse. It was there, quietly murmuring below her fingertips.
She thought for a moment, knowing she shouldn't move his body too much in case there was some damage she would exacerbate. Instead, she conjured a brace and fit it deftly around Neville’s neck. Then, she stood and surveyed the hall again. A quiet rage began to bubble inside her. Despite the thoroughness of her training at the Academy, she was realizing that everything was different in battle. There were no partners. There was no decorum. And there was no fair fight. The individual duels raged on around her as she tried to figure out where to assert herself. One Death Eater was so aggressively attacking Ginny that it nearly looked like she was dancing. Nearby her two aunts were each holding their own, but there was a shadow drawn across both of their faces that betrayed their form. They were tired, or tiring, and many of the other Order members fighting in the hall shared the same look.
So, she took pointed steps toward her aunts, inserting herself into the fray with a quick "Impedimenta," which took Demeter's sparring partner by surprise. She was knocked backwards into the wall and crumpled in a heap on the floor.
Demeter shot her a relieved look.
"There's some kind of barrier set at the tower. It threw Neville back." Evelyn explained quickly, knowing Demeter wouldn't need more context than that.
"Right. We've got to find a way up there. I'll free up Remus." And with that, her younger aunt turned to her right to aid Remus, leaving Evelyn to join her older aunt. It was more difficult aiding Minerva because she was casting nonverbally, so rather than taking an aggressive stance Evelyn decided to move defensively, blocking spells and casting shields. She kept her casting to verbal spells only so that her aunt could hear her intentions and adjust appropriately.
Suddenly, a black whirl came through the hall. Professor Snape was there, and Evelyn quickly shot a shield around him to protect him from the fray. He sent a sharp look her way, nearly sneering as one of the large wizard's spells knocked against the protective barrier. The Defense Against the Dark Arts professor was moving at a quick clip, intent on ascending the staircase. Before Evelyn could call out a warning to prevent him from receiving the same fate as Neville, Snape reached the stairwell and, to her surprise, glided through unscathed.
She heard her younger aunt urging Remus on, and saw him break away to follow her professor to the top of the tower—and was shocked to find he was thrown back.
Evelyn didn't have time to think on it more as a spell went whizzing past her head, and she turned her attention back to the wizard her older aunt was sparring. She refocused her efforts, losing herself in the battle. Spell after spell, the volley continued back and forth. She felt grit rising up from her stomach like bile, and was reaffirmed in her skill and determination by her aunt's slow, but steady success.
The scene changed suddenly, however, when a stream of Death Eaters cut down the steps and through the corridor, taking their compatriots with them—including Elizabeth, who must have been revived by one of them because she was suddenly upright. She was clasping hands with Draco, looking slightly befuddled but keeping pace with his stride. She gave Evelyn a vile smirk as she rushed past, her confusion clearing and transforming into delighted.
Anger twisted up inside Evelyn, and without thinking she abandoned her aunt and pursued the group. Before she could quite close the gap between them, however, a man was sent flying through the air into the wall just beside her, nearly taking her with him. Next, a dark-haired mass that had to be Harry flew past, zooming past her in as he chased the same group she had been attempting to follow. She heard Ginny exclaim his name, but neither of them paused. Harry was running with everything he had, and she willed her legs to move faster.
She was nearly closing in on him when a blast sent pieces of wall showering down between them. The destruction stopped Evelyn in her tracks, and she called out Harry’s name. He didn't stop, too intent on the group. She watched as he took the length of the hallway and rounded the corner, never looking back. She paused, breathing heavily. Thinking. Trying to ignore the pain splitting her side. The dust was beginning to settle, and she could clearly hear the duels peaking behind her. Tonks yelled something indecipherable, and Evelyn thought she should go back. But, then her eyes caught sight of a nearby tapestry and she recognized it as one of the shortcuts that Harry had taken her through just weeks ago, and she realized there was no going back—ahead was Harry, and Elizabeth, and something much worse perhaps. If she hurried, she might be able to catch them.
She threw back the tapestry, and took the stairs disguised behind it two at a time, eventually emerging on the first floor at a familiar crossing. She took a left, and found herself at the top of the stairwell that led into the Entrance Hall. Again, she took the stairs quickly, nearly losing her balance at the dizzying pace she set for herself. Her feet hit the ground floor, but there was no sign of Harry. She kept running, trying to survey the hall as she went. She thought she couldn't have been far behind. Dust was still settling throughout the hall, and it was clear the Death Eaters had delighted in making a mess on the way out. Artwork had been torn from its place, and pieces of stone were knocked from the wall. She thought she could hear a younger student crying, but she couldn't stop. She needed to reach them—to reach him.
She took the threshold of the castle with a leap and slid into the night air, her breath catching in her throat as she missed the step onto the grounds. Her feet caught up amongst themselves underneath her, and she lost her footing entirely. Her arms shot out in the dark, her hands and knees catching the ground and burning in pain as she skidded to a halt. She was dazed for a minute, but pushed herself up, steadying herself on her feet. Everything hurt, but she could feel her heart racing with adrenaline and she wasn’t ready to stop.
She was a little disoriented, however, and unsure of where to go. The dark grounds had swallowed up Harry and the others. She scanned the horizon, trying to find his racing figure—but her eyes were drawn to a bright spot in the night, where the black sky was cut by yellow and red flames. Hagrid's hut was ablaze, the fire lapping hungrily upward. It reminded her of the bonfires that had burned on those same grounds in November, the ones that had started her on the path towards this moment—that had brought her back to herself and, eventually, to Harry. Her lungs heaved against her chest, protesting as she stood still.
The flames were a strange hue. Though yellow and red as fire should be, there was sickly green light cast upon them that made them look almost lime in the night. Turning her head to discern the source of this distortion, she saw it: The Dark Mark.
It cast a gross hue across the grounds from its place in the sky. Stretching across the scene, it was obscured only slightly by the tower that she had been so desperate to ascend. A small group of students could be seen beneath the mark, their wands like candles dotting the night. Her eyes strained from the group to Hagrid's hut, but still she couldn't find Harry or the others. They were gone, and she felt dumb and useless. She thought for a moment of returning inside and attempting to find Hermione, or Christian, or Serenity. Instead, she felt herself drawn to the group beneath the tower—wanting to make sure, to know nothing had gone that wrong. That it had been a decoy, a fake, that Draco Malfoy had planted from the perch in the tower he had fought so hard to gain.
As she moved closer, the murmuring of the crowd intensified. It was a strange sound to her after the cruel banter of dueling, almost alien in its adolescent gossiping way. Nearing the crowd, she realized they were gathered in a semi-circle around something—someone, her brain suggested. Immediately, the comments about a Mudblood Ravenclaw came back to her. Serenity, she feared, and began to move faster despite her body’s protests, edging through younger and older students alike to get to the front of the crowd.
It couldn't be, it couldn't be, the mantra repeated again and again in her head as she rushed to gain the front of the crowd.
When she broke through, she knew immediately it wasn't. And yet, somehow, it was worse. Crumbled on the ground, joints at strange angles, was Albus Dumbledore. Her headmaster. The man who had allowed her to take a risk in a foolish attempt to protect herself from grief, and who had seen it undone. The man who had allowed her to fail without judgement or scorn, and who had primed her for this war and the role she might have in it. The one who still owed her a meeting and a conclusion, neither of which she would ever have now.
In the soft light of the moon and the wands, she noted that his eyes were closed and his glasses crooked. He was dead. Gone. Never again would he look at her over the rims of those wire crescents with twinkling eyes that betrayed his mirth and his knowledge.
This was the second time she had seen a body beneath the Dark Mark, and her stomach churned with the familiarity. She didn't know exactly what feeling she had at that moment. Perhaps it had been too many feelings at once, because the pain in her body was driven away and all she was aware of was the way her fingers felt numb at her sides and her stomach hollow.
She wasn't sure how long she stayed like that, staring at the light reflected in his lenses, but she knew the crowd was moving behind her. It parted, emitting others to the front: Harry and Hagrid. The groundskeeper moaned grievously, stopping an arm’s length from where Evelyn stood.
Harry, however, didn't stop. He kept moving forward until he was at Professor Dumbledore's side. She watched as he reached his hand out and straightened the headmaster's glasses so that they sat correctly on the bridge of his nose. Harry's hand was strangely steady as it continued to move about, wiping blood from the headmaster's mouth and resting briefly on his cheek.
The crowd began to grow and murmur more purposefully, and Evelyn took it all in without ever taking her eyes off of Harry's sloping shoulders. She watched as he pulled something out from beneath his legs, as he studied if carefully, opened it, and paused. He slipped the item into his pocket, his hands tightening and, from where she stood, she could see his eyes glaze over.
Hagrid's dog began to howl grievously, and Evelyn's chest tightened. She felt as though she was interrupting a private moment, but she couldn’t look away. Tears stung at the corner of her eyes and her heart beat sadly against her ribs. The adrenaline leaked out of her, and she felt deflated. Hadn't they just been in the tower doing homework? Grinning and kissing over Herbology? Hadn't they just been teenagers—children—at school?
The world was upside down now.
Evelyn watched on as Ginny broke through the crowd, her red hair purple under the Dark Mark. She spoke softly to Harry, touching his shoulder. He didn't seem to notice. Ginny spoke more forcefully, reaching for his hand and trying to gain his attention. Still, he stayed.
"Harry," Evelyn's voice quivered on the soft, Scottish night air. When she spoke again, it was a bit stronger. "Harry, we need to go. People were hurt. We need to be with them now."
He turned his eyes towards her, taking her in as if it was the first time he'd seen her. His eyes lapped her up, and Evelyn watched as he slipped out from under Ginny's grasp and came towards her. His hands took either side of her face, shaking for the first time. For a moment, she felt as if he was ensuring she was real. As if he needed to hold her between his vibrating palms and feel the warmth of her skin, the dip of her chin. Her eyelashes brushed the sides of his fingers, and her heart beat loudly for him. She placed both of her hands over his, and repeated softly, "We need to be with the others. We need to go."
"I'll follow you, Evie." He replied resolutely.
Credits: All bolded text comes from J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.
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