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Chapter 1: Prologue
You sit in the Library, surrounded by dust and the smell of old parchment, closed off from the world by stacks of books and wooden shelves. This is your haven, your sanctuary, your paradise; here, no one can touch you or disturb you. Here you can lose track of time without realising, you can go for hours without needing anything except the tomes around you.
It started out normally: as a tiny eleven-year-old you would come here, looking for a book to help you with your homework or perhaps explain a certain point in more detail than the assigned textbook. Over the years you start spending more and more time here, delving deeper and deeper into the Library, digging out books even Madam Pince barely recalls to take out and read, brushing the dust off them with a light, careful hand. Other books are ones she knows well: worn romances – Austen, Shakespeare, Gregory, Smyth, Darrell. Those are your favourites, the ones you sit there and dream about for hours, especially the historical ones, the tales of intrigue and deceit spun by your fellow humans, by the ancestors of those you know.
Your exams are in just under five months – you know you should be starting to plan your revision, drawing up a timetable and allocating time to each subject – but you don’t feel like it. You haven’t felt like it much this year. While previously you were on top of everything, honoured member of the Chess Club, prefect and commonly referred to as ‘that goody-two-shoes Weasley girl’, that’s all gone down the drain this year.
Absently, you wonder what happened to that girl, that Molly Georgina Weasley, the one you used to be before, well, everything. It’s obvious, to you at least, that she’s gone and it’s unlikely she’ll come back. Maybe she's vanished, shrinking inside your head until she was nothing; only a speck in your consciousness, a tiny voice in the back of your mind, crying out for you to stop, to listen, to think rationally. Maybe she has simply stopped existing, making way for this new her, making way for that other half. Occasionally, you snap out of it, you can think rationally, you can talk confidently about Quidditch and current affairs - is that her? You don’t know, you can’t remember.
Madam Dagnell is giving you a potion. It tastes horrible - all medicines do, you know - reminding you of burnt toast and smelly cheese, but you take it every morning and evening without fail. If you didn’t, she’d know and she’d send you off to St. Mungo’s, but, worse than that, your parents would know, your family would know. You promised them you’d try, for them, no matter how hard it was and how much you didn’t want to. Your mum had looked at you, tears shining in her eyes, and begged you; your father had been ashen-faced, exhausted; Lucy, your twin, had reached over, taken your hand and told you that it would be alright, her grip so tight it hurt.
It’s been four and a half months. Four and a half long months. Sometimes, you have to double-check the date, make sure it’s right. Sometimes, you can’t believe it. You’ve spent four and a half months living this double life, four and a half months of mixed messages, of confusion, of whirlwind romances and dresses and balls and gleaming jewels. You’re not sure how you’ve made it this far, certainly you have never expected it to go this far or to last this long; but it has, and you accept that without a moment’s hesitation.
Things are much simpler after you’ve drunk the potion, you muse, fiddling with the pages of the book in front of you. The world is so much easier to cope with, people’s emotions and hopes and fears fade into a blurry mess, until you can’t tell which one is which and if it matters. It’s good, far less confusing than the mess you had tried to deal with before.
Speaking of mess, you gaze down at the book on the table, at the pristine leather cover, the bent spine and perfect calligraphy on the front. It’s what started all of this, what started the dreams, the confusion and created this new you; somehow, though, you can’t bring yourself to blame it, to burn it or even get rid of it. Even now, when you have promised you wouldn’t open it again, it sits in your schoolbag, walking around with you. This morning you left it in your dormitory, a silly mistake, and had to run all the way from Potions in the dungeons up to the Ravenclaw dormitories to get it. You could feel it, in your mind, hear it whispering, telling you that you’d forgotten it. You felt empty, lost without it.
Of course, you haven’t told anyone that. No one knows – not Madam Dagnell, not your mum or dad, not Lucy or Dominique or Victoire. You know what they’d tell you, after all, if you did say anything. They’d want you to throw it away and get rid of it, maybe give it to them so they could do it for you, so you would never know what happened to it, but you can’t let them do that. You couldn’t.
“Molly?” Victoire pokes her head round the shelf of muggle eighteenth-century literature. “Oh, here you are. Lucy and I are going down to dinner, do you want to come with us?”
You hesitate. You don’t want to; you want to stay here and read the book – the book that’s already in your bag, hidden from Victoire’s eyes – but you know that you have to. If you don’t go, Madam Dagnell will notice and that’ll mean another lecture about looking after yourself, and you can’t stand lectures, especially not from her.
You’ve tried explaining it to her – that you often don’t need to eat because you eat when you’re there, you see? Food there is edible; it fills you up, and six meals a day really is too many for any person – but she merely pursed her lips and ordered you to eat the soup she’d given you. Your mum won’t listen either, and Grandma Molly takes it as a personal offence when you don’t eat, regardless of how hungry you are, so you have to eat when you’re at home.
School is where it’s worst, though – where everything is worst. It’s so easy to mutter something about going to the Library, make your way out of the common room and find your table, open the book and read. You never stop reading until Madam Pince comes and shakes you, telling you it’s closing time. She’s used to seeing you, though, she doesn’t know anything’s wrong. She never did.
“Molly?” Victoire’s still there, watching you with a faint frown on her face. It doesn’t suit her. Your mouth opens to tell her so, but the potion closes it for you again, pushing her to the back of your mind.
You, calm and rational as ever, step forwards, taking control.
“I’m coming, Vic, don’t worry,” you say with a smile. You know she can feel you tug your lips upwards into the expression, but there’s nothing she can do about it.
Despite her reluctance, you stand, picking up your bag and swinging it over your shoulder. Victoire looks relieved as you make your way towards her, relaxing and giving you a soft smile. All the time you're aware that the presence in your mind is diminishing, aware that the book is in the bag. Nevertheless, you are taken downstairs, into the Great Hall and seated at the Gryffindor table. It’s not her table – even you belong at the blue-and-bronze table with Louis, but Victoire and Lucy are Gryffindors and they want you with them.
It’s not because they like you, she whispers to you as you scoop up a spoonful of mashed potato. It’s just because they’ve been told to keep an eye on you.
You don’t reply; you never do.
Locked away in the back of your mind, she is contemplating how this all happened. It started with the book – the one in the bag – in the Library. She didn’t mean to cause this all to happen, not her and not you, but it did. Whether you were both aware of it at the time, or it just happened without her knowing, a quiet transfer in the night, a slow process as you read deeper and deeper into her life; this is the situation you are left in. Two halves of a person, two halves of two people, stuck inside one. You wanted to lose yourself, she wanted to find herself and, somewhere along the line, you met each other. It’s funny how things happen like that.
She ignores your aimless, dull conversation with your cousins - she doesn’t understand modern current affairs and so they bore her - and turns her own, private thoughts to something far more terrifying than anything she’s ever faced: the future. Neither of you know what will happen; she can’t predict what will happen, and she’s not going to try. All she does know is that Madam Dagnell and the other Healers who visit you every so often want the two of you separated. They don’t want her here anymore. They say she’s killing you, drowning you inside your own mind. What they don’t understand is that she would never kill anyone – it’s just not like her, not how she rolls. She’s not like the others, her year-mates and house-mates. She’s different.
The potion is killing her; it's smothering her, squashing her, pushing her down further than she thought she could ever go. If you keep on taking it, if she doesn’t stop you, she’ll die. It will push her out of existence, push her out of your mind and back to the confines of pages and ink, back into her own memories. They’ll destroy the book, no doubt; they’ll say it’s too dangerous to be left on its own. They’ll destroy her.
She doesn’t want to die. Neither do you, she supposes, but she’s not worried about you. You’re not her, after all. She’s only fifteen, not even sixteen yet. She hasn’t sat her OWLs, had her first kiss, fallen in love - done the hundred and three things she promised herself she’d achieve before it all ended.
Silently, malevolently, in the crowded space, she begins to plan. They may have invented potions that can do things she couldn’t even imagine they could, have destroyed her society and the life she knew, but she will not let them destroy her. She will not go down without a fight; she will not give up before it’s over, before she’s won. The idea of murder, of killing another person in any other way, doesn’t faze her – not like it would have before. This isn’t about saving face or impressing others or proving her worth and strength and power; this is about survival. She’s good at survival. She’s done it for years. In fact, it’s pretty much all she knows how to do.
You, Molly Weasley, may have won the first battle, but she’ll win the war.
Retracing her steps, she starts at the beginning – the beginning of everything – adding it all to her memories. If, by some lucky strike, she loses, at least you’ll remember. At least someone will remember her, even if no one else does.