Mnemosyne in Chains
It's happened again. She can tell by the expressions on her parents' faces, the concerned cast of her mother's eyes, and the wrinkle in her father's scar. Lily flushes and looks down at her hand, which is frozen in the middle of reaching for a roll. Had she just stopped again, like a wound-down robot?
"I'm sorry," she whispers, retracting her hand. "I didn't hear you."
She is fully aware of the eyes of everyone at the table on her, weighing her, like they have for the past year. Ever since these not-times started. Times when she's not there. She's only six, but she remembers when she was five, and the first time she just stopped. No one had looked at her like this then, because it was only once. But it's been a lot since then.
"I asked how your day with Teddy went," repeats her mother. Ginny Potter's voice rides slow over her words, careful, as though her daughter might break apart of they hit her too fast.
Days with Teddy always go fine. She loves her father's godson like he's her own brother—more, really, because James and Albus are big jerks who tease her, pull her hair and hex her toys when their parents aren't looking, and Teddy isn't like that—and she always has fun with him.
"We went to Diagon Alley and had ice cream and shopped a little and Teddy bought me a present."
"Really?" asks her father, smiling a little. It's all right, that smile says, everything is perfectly okay. It was just a small misstep.
"Now Lily, we don't say 'uh huh.' What do we say?"
"Better. You'll be expected to say 'yes sir' and 'yes ma'am' or 'yes Professor' when you go to Hogwarts."
Lily nods. Of course she's going to Hogwarts. There's never been any doubt about that, because she's a witch, just like her mother, and James and Albus have already started showing signs of magic. James doesn't even have a wand yet and he can already turn her hair blue, and that's just not fair. Father says not everything in life is fair, and she guesses that must be true, or she'd be able to turn James' hair blue, too, and wouldn't keep waking up in the middle of the day to find she missed something.
At last, without even asking her what present Teddy bought her--such a pretty ballerina doll that really dances--Lily's parents turn away from her and to her brothers.
"Well, boys, tomorrow is your outing with Teddy. 'Boys day out,' he says. Are you excited?"
They both nod, but Albus picks at his peas without a smile.
Albus blinks as a hand comes across his vision. It's Teddy, and he's smiling in that goofy, lopsided way of his, one side of his mouth up and the other down. The sight of it makes Albus smile back, even though he's scared. He's scared because he can't remember what Teddy said just a second ago, and he must have said something, but Albus just can't remember. He's scared because this is the same thing that's been happening to Lily, and Albus heard Mom and Dad talking about sending Lily to talk to some sort of dodgy Muggle doctor. James said it was a head-shrinker, a doctor who made people's head get really small so all the bad things in them get squeezed out of the ears, but then the person has to go to another doctor to get their head blown up again, and sometimes the head pops just like a balloon.
Albus really doesn't want his head to pop. He doesn't want Lily's to pop, either, but if it came down to her or him, well, he likes his head all together. Lily will just have to get better on her own, won't she?
Teddy snaps his fingers in front of Albus' face now. "Don't give up on me, Al, there's still the zoo! As soon as James comes out of the loo, we're going to see some monkeys."
"And snakes?" Albus remembers the story his Dad told about the snake he saw once. It talked to him. Dad says that snakes probably won't talk to Albus, but if they do, that's all right because snakes can be just as nice as any other animal, really.
"Sure, probably some snakes, too. Planning to talk to them like You-Know-Who?" Teddy's eyes gleam red for just a moment.
"No! Stop it, or I'll tell Dad!" The fear Albus feels is something he doesn't quite understand, but it's there. He's seen drawings in books, and has heard a few stories from Uncle Ron or Aunt Hermione, but mostly the grown ups don't talk about You-Know-Who, though when they do, they usually just call him Voldemort, or sometimes, Tom. It's confusing, but Albus knows enough to know that You-Know-Who was a really bad guy.
In his closet, it isn't the boogeyman who dwells, but Tom Riddle with his red eyes and flat nose. Teddy knows it, and likes to scare Albus all the time, but Albus isn't going to be scared, he's not.
Teddy laughs and pats Albus on the head, but at least his eyes aren't red anymore.
A second later the door to the loo opens and out walks James, eyebrows knotted over hazel eyes, as though something confusing happened.
"I thought I would have to go in and pull you out," Teddy says cheerfully, rising to meet his young godbrother. "Ready for monkeys?"
The Potter boys are always ready for monkeys.
James sinks into the hot bath water and winces. He hurts all over, in places and muscles he didn't even know could hurt, and it doesn't make any sense, because all he did today was go to a few places with Teddy. "Errands," as Gran would say. Here and there.
He can't remember exactly where they went. That scares him a little. He's nine, he shouldn't be forgetting stuff that happened just that day. Only old people forget things that soon, people like Mum and Dad, or Gran or Gramps. Even they don't forget things for at least a week. Except, well, all the Potter kids have been forgetting. Mom and Dad haven't noticed him yet, or Albus, just Lily. But James noticed Albus staring at his reflection in the bathroom mirror, paused in the middle of brushing his teeth. Albus pretended it was nothing, but James knew better.
Shifting in the water, James bites his bottom lip to keep from crying out. There are bruises on his chest and stomach that he can't explain. There's a whisper of memory in the back of his mind that suggests a fight, but he can't make out the details.
There are also bruises on the inside of his thighs; he won't look at them, because they look a little like handprints.
James tries to remember where he went with Teddy, and he can't, he can't. The day just isn't there. He remembers leaving the house, he remembers his hand in Teddy's while they crossed the street, being embarrassed, but Teddy insisted, as he always did. Worse, James' parents agree with this stupid practice, even though James is nine and almost ten, which is basically the same as being a grown up. Especially compared to Albus and especially Lily.
James settles further into the water, trying harder to remember past walking across the street, but nothing comes. Behind his eyes begins a prickling of tears, and since he's all alone, he doesn't try to stop it, mostly because… because…
… because he feels like he should cry. He feels like he has good reason to cry, if only he could remember.
He's only nine. He doesn't know how to express the depths of what he feels. If he did, he might say he feels empty and used.
Doctor Nguyen is a Muggle, but her brother is a wizard. Dad said lots of wizarding families comes see her when they have things going on in their heads that Healers can't help with their spells and potions, especially people who were in the war. He's seen her a few times himself. That's why he and Mum trust her.
"Lily? Are you listening?"
She's listening. Or, she was, until a moment ago, when she was distracted by… something. Lily pulls her feet up into the chair, her knees to her chest, and curls her arms around them. This position makes her feel better, and Doctor Nguyen says it's okay for her to sit that way if it makes her feel better. Doctor Nguyen also lets her sit quietly when she doesn't feel like talking, and she never, ever tells Lily's parents anything that she does say. They don't like it, but it's the reason Lily's agreed to keep coming.
The doctor, seeing Lily take this position, doesn't ask her another question, only waits either for Lily to start talking again, or for the timer to go off. Whichever comes first. Sometimes it's the timer. Not today.
"I was," Lily finally says, "but I forgot what you were saying."
Scratch, scratch, scratch, the sound of the doctor's quill on paper. The sound bothered Lily at first, more because she worried about what Doctor Nguyen would do with those notes than what she wrote. Lily doesn't care what the doctor writes as long as no one else sees.
"Can you remember what I said right before you blacked out?"
Lily shakes her head, or starts to, but it isn't the real truth. Even as she thinks she doesn't, she does. "You asked about Teddy."
"Your father's godson."
"You go places with him."
"Yeah. He babysits. Mom and Dad are busy a lot. We're going to have a… a sleepover… at his new place… soon."
Doctor Nguyen asks something else, but Lily is gone again, because there's something troubling about the idea of a sleepover at Teddy's, something she can't remember and there's a voice in her head telling her not to remember, not ever. No remembering for Lily, so she slips off into the blackness again, until the source of the voice in her head flips a switch, and she's back, and there's no trouble.
"Sorry. What did you say?"
"Lily, can you tell me how old you are?" One of the easy questions Doctor Nguyen asks during sessions when Lily has blacked out more than once. To test Lily's mind, she says, to make sure nothing is wrong. Other than blacking out in the first place.
Doctor Nguyen smiles, because it's the right answer, and Lily smiles back just as the timer goes off.
This has happened before, this running, this knowing that someone or something chases him. It feels like he never stops, even when he's awake—
Albus jolts upward in the bed, ten years old and shaking, soaked with sweat. The nightmare again. The only nightmare. Albus cannot remember ever having a different one. Always this one, with its terror, darkness, and the smiling shadow behind him. It smiles, yes, he doesn't know how he knows, but he knows. Whatever chases him through the corridors of his fear smiles.
A whimper escapes before he can stop it, before he even knew it was coming.
James is awake. Did Albus wake him up?
"Sorry. I didn't—"
"No, I was already awake. Too excited." That's right, tomorrow James goes to Hogwarts for the first time. The whole family's been in celebration mode for the past week. Somehow, though Albus doesn't believe excitement is really the reason.
"Are you really too excited to sleep?"
"… No." James shifts in bed and sits up, looking over at his brother. "I don't know why I can't sleep."
Albus looks up at the ceiling, though he can't really see anything in the darkness, even after his eyes have adjusted. There's nothing to see. Unlike in his nightmare. He won't look at James.
"I had a bad dream," he finally says. "A really bad dream."
For a while, James doesn't say anything, until: "Me too."
The men—though only one of them is a man in the eyes of the law—meet at the prearranged place at the agreed upon time, to discuss matters of a most serious importance. Sex, revenge and money always are.
"I dunno," the one says, "it'll be difficult. I've never done it that way before."
"That's the way I want. It has to be all night, and it has to be the one with the green eyes." The older one, the man who should know better but can't be arsed to care, holds a pouch of the sort that in previous times would be called a purse. In this pouch jingles a great deal of money, more galleons than the boy has ever seen for a single job before. Even a job of this sort.
He glances up at the man with a smirk. "What is it about you people and Harry Potter? One would think you'd hate him."
"I do." The man growls, his fingers closing on the pouch until they must be imprinted with the shape of coins. "Do you want the money or not?"
"Oh, I want it, I'm just not sure it's worth it. This would be a big thing to Obliviate, and the kids are already starting to show the stress. Right now, the one you want isn't as bad off as the girl. He's not as popular. But he might get worse if I do this."
"I don't care. I don't care if he never forgets, or if he never wakes up. I just want him."
Teddy grins. "You're fucked up, you know that?"
The man doesn't grin back. "You're one to talk."
"Yeah, well, what can I say? My parents never taught me any better."
All three of them have their separate doubts, and Lily threw up earlier, but didn't tell anyone. What could she tell them? She's not sick, just nervous, and she can't say why.
When they arrive at Teddy's new house—a big house, and all his own, he's so proud of it—Lily knows immediately this isn't what they thought. There are two men there, men she doesn't know, though one of them looks a little like the man her dad calls "Malfoy," though this one is older than the man at King's Cross. Older, and hungrier, and he looks at Albus with such hatred in his eyes. With a wisdom beyond her, Lily suddenly knows that it isn't Albus this man hates, not really, but the father that Albus resembles.
"Everyone stay here," Teddy orders cheerfully, before taking Lily by the shoulders to steer her to a room off to the side of the living room. There, he hands her a small bundle, and says, "Put this on, be a good girl, now," and then he leaves out to where the men and her brothers wait.
The bundle is a scrap of sheer cloth that resembles a dress, but it's absolutely see-through, and not long enough to even reach Lily's knees. It barely covers her thighs. It's the same kind of secret night dress Mum has, that Lily discovered one day, and Mum said that was the sort of nightie she wore for Dad only, and one day Lily would understand.
When Teddy returns, Lily has done what he asked; she stands with her arms half-crossed, one over her breasts, the other slightly diagonal to cover what the sheer night dress does not. Her cheeks are flushed, and she shakes, because she can't imagine what Teddy wants her to wear this for.
He smiles when he sees her.
"There you are. You are pretty, aren't you? I can see why you're popular."
"Teddy? I don't—"
"Shhh," he says, coming closer, and he touches her face. "You don't have to be shy, Lily. It's not the first time this has happened, you know. Well, the first time with me. But not your first time."
She's twelve, and she's wearing a see-through nightie and Teddy lets his fingers drop to her neck.
"I've always wondered what people saw in you. I mean, you're pretty, but you're so young. I've always liked my girls more around my age."
Lily doesn't understand him, but her mind trembles all around the edges. Inside, she quivers, not because of his touch, but because there's something there that tells her she does know, she does understand, but she doesn't want to remember. She's never wanted to remember.
Teddy picks her up easily and sits her on the bed. "I've been told I shouldn't judge a person's tastes until I've tried them." His fingers move to her shoulder, and push the strap of the nightie over the curve.
Any questions that rise to her mind are shot straight out of it when he leans down and kisses her, not the brotherly kisses she's used to, the peck on the cheek, or the forehead. He kisses her on the mouth, and there might have been a time when she dreamed about this and giggled, perhaps in another world where this really is the first time, her first kiss. As it is, she reacts instantly and without thought, her hands beat at his shoulders and chest because this is not right this is not right it's not right not again no no no.
But Teddy just grabs her wrists, and pushes her on her back, and she screams and kicks, but it doesn't stop him. Here, now, when she could most use the blackness, it won't come. Why should it, when the purpose of it is to keep her from remembering, and this is not a memory, this is real, this is now.
Teddy takes, and he takes, and somewhere in this house Lily knows her brothers are trapped, too, and her screams turn into broken sobs.
He doesn't remember, but he knows. He knows what will happen, and it only makes sense that it's happened before. There's only a moment to turn to James, his eyes wide, before he's grabbed by the arm and yanked away from his brother. Albus isn't an athlete, like James. He doesn't have the strength to fight this man, not even to pry the man's hand from his wrist. He didn't even have the strength to protect his sister, and where has she gone? Is there another man waiting in that room for her?
He tries to jerk out of the man's grasp, but he's too strong. Albus can only watch over his shoulder as the second man grabs a struggling James by the waist and, laughing, throws him face-first on the couch. James is on his knees, shouting, the man working at his pants, when Albus is pulled onto the stairs and has to turn away, or fall.
"I know who your father is, you little piece of filth." The man snarls at him as they approach a door. Once opened, Albus is flung through the door so quickly and with such force there's no time to watch his step. He trips over something, falls, bashes his face against the foot of the bed. Blood gushes from his nose, and from his split lip. The man crouches in front of him and yanks his head up by the hair. He's smiling.
"When I'm done with you, you're going to wish your father had died under the hand of the Dark Lord, and never lived to give you life." With his wand in his other hand, he flicks and murmurs, "Imperio."
Albus' last conscious thought is, But that's an Unforgiveable….
He is not aware of him introducing himself as Harry Potter. Nor is he aware of having a wizard's duel with this man in which his "wand" is merely a stick with no magical properties whatsoever, or of how his body is flung from one end of the room to the other. He will never remember kneeling at the man's feet and calling him "Master Lucius," or the things he allows his master to do to him, or the orders he fulfills to the letter.
There will never be a moment of blackness for Albus Severus Potter ever again, because at some point in the night, crying out obscenities for the pleasure of his master, Albus' already weakened mind breaks.
Where the fuck is Al?
Teddy spares a glance upward, toward the room where Lucius Malfoy took Albus, and from which there's been no word since last night. Lucius was supposed to have brought him down at dawn. Sparing one more glance at James and Lily, Teddy casts a body bind to keep them from running and starts toward the stairs. He can only listen to them blubber for so long, and it's about time to see what's taking them so fucking long. He should have known better; Luscious Lucius has too much hate in him to be a good customer and abide by the rules. Teddy is so not looking forward to having to heal a bloodied face and broken bones. If he has to, he can say Albus wanted to go straight to a friend's this morning. Harry will believe him.
Upstairs, he knocks on the door, not liking the silence from the other side. "Hey, Malfoy! Time's up, bring him out."
There's muttering, but nothing more. Patience lost, Teddy tries the knob and opens the door; on the other side, a shattered wreck of Albus. The boy lies prostrate on the floor, naked and bleeding from so many wounds it's a wonder he's still alive. The muttering is him, over and over again, "I'm Harry Potter, master, I'm Harry Potter." He won't fucking shut up.
An occupational hazard of running the business he does, one he's hoped never to come across.
"Fuck," Teddy says, and immediately Obliviates the boy. It doesn't work, though. Well, he stops talking, but his eyes never clear again. "Fuck, fuck, fuck! I told that bastard… Merlin damn it all!"
He can't send Albus home like this. There's no way. Merlin, he so so fucked, and not in a good way.
Yet, Teddy has always been resourceful. There's no time to waste, if he's going to salvage even some of this. There's nothing to be done for Albus. Teddy leaves him, returning to the two downstairs, and he doesn't even try to explain to them what's happened to their brother. There's no point. He just Obliviates them, and in the space of time before their eyes clear, feeds them the only story they will remember about this night. It's the story they will tell their parents, the hitwizards, Aurors, friends, or anyone who ever asks them why there is no longer a middle Potter child.
And for Lily, very special instructions.
"James, this is unacceptable."
"Are you listening to me?"
"Yeah, Mum. I'm listening."
"I don't think you are. I said this is unacceptable. You're only sixteen. It's so irresponsible, I have no words for how irresponsible it is, or how much trouble you're in."
She's had plenty of words, has Ginevera Potter, and she has plenty more. James has to listen to it all, sitting in the infirmary. Madame Perrinwolde has taken her leave, lips tight with disapproval, but then that's not anything new. Madame Perrinwolde seems to disapprove of children, period, or at least the children who end up in her infirmary. Isn't that what the infirmary is for, though? It makes James scowl, because surely he's not the only kid to end up here for this reason, just no one ever talks about it, that's all.
Everyone likes to pretend anyone under seventeen is pure and innocent and untouched. At least until they're forced to see otherwise.
"Do you have anything to say for yourself?"
James just shrugs. Not like there's anything he can say that she'll believe, or that will make her stop yelling. Why couldn't she have just sent a Howler, like all the normal mums? That could have been private, if he'd been allowed to open it here. Maybe. OKay, a Howler would have been worse.
His mum puts her hands to his cheeks and sighs. Unable to avoid it anymore, James looks up at her, and sees a terrible sort of compassion on her face. She hasn't exactly forgiven him, but… she's his mum. He knows she loves him.
"I don't want anything to happen to you. You're lucky it wasn't a bad infection, and it's easily treatable with a potion. Please… if you're going to… just be more careful."
James knows his mum loves him, so he nods, agreeing. He'll agree to whatever she wants to make her go away, so he can take today's dose of the three-dose potion and go back to his dorm, sit in his bed with the curtains pulled and finally let himself shake and cry and fear.
Because he knows his mum loves him, he doesn't tell her that, to his knowledge, there's no way this could happen.
He's still a virgin. He's never done more than hold hands and make out a little. That's it, he has never had a serious relationship with anyone. He's a virgin, he knows this is true.
He can't be mistaken, not about that.
Lily gazes at herself in the full-length mirror, and though she's never thought herself particularly beautiful, she can't help but think a wedding gown makes anyone look gorgeous. It's the sort of dress many young women would kill for to wear at their weddings, with a full skirt, silk and lace and sparkling crystals at the bodice. For all of its fullness, it's a simple design, and white, so white. She never knew this pure white existed, or could be created by human hands and magic.
Smiling, but sadly, she reaches up to touch the locket at the throat. Her something borrowed, from her mother. Inside, a picture of Albus, missing for so long.
Lily turns, and her smile brightens to see her father in the door. Harry Potter is greying at the edges—well, all right, a little more than the edges these days, but he's her father and to her it only makes him look distinguished—and is a little red around the eyes, but he gives her smile back in full force. He cuts a nice figure in his formal dress robes; everyone else will be wearing robes, but Lily wanted this lovely white creation. Neither her father nor her fiancé would deny her.
"It's almost time."
He comes close, and not for the first time Lily sees the worry in his eyes. It's endearing, the way he worries. He's supposed to worry. His little girl is getting married. Even if he approves of the man, he's still obligated by unwritten parenting laws to worry.
"Are you still sure? We could hop on a broom and be out of here in three seconds."
"I'm sure." She laughs. It feels good to laugh. There hasn't been much laughter in their home in some time. On this day of all days, though, she thinks Albus would want her to be happy. "I wish Al were here."
Her father says nothing through his tears, only nods in acknowledgement. Lily knows her parents haven't really given up hope. In ten years, there's never been a body, and what can parents do except keep looking, and keep hoping? For herself, Lily still sometimes wakes in the middle of the night, sweating and terrified, but mind blank. She can only believe the blankness of her nightmare represents the absence of her brother and any explanation as to who took him from Teddy's house that night.
Lily hugs her father, moving any sorrowful thoughts to the back of her mind. They don't belong in the forefront, not today.
"He's too old for you," says her father, without heat. It's an old conversation, one he never really tried to win. She just kisses his cheek and takes his hand.
The Great Hall has been cleared away for this occasion, Hogwarts' doors thrown open in celebration of the marriage of Harry Potter's daughter. The candles floating above guests' heads are white and silver, and the keen of eye might be able to see the two amongst them that change colors in flickering cycles.
At the end of the aisle, on the dais where the professors' table normally rested, Minister for Magic Kingsley Shacklebolt waits, smiling, to perform his last act as Minister before officially handing over the reins to the newly elected Percy Weasley. Lily beams at him, pleased for so many reasons to have this man marry her to her fiancé, and pleased to help him end his term in office on a hopeful note.
And there, beside him, the man who makes her heart swell and race, and who makes her ache all over with just the thought of him. The man she's been in love with since she could remember, since she was twelve years old at least.
Teddy Lupin smiles back at her.