Chapter 26 : Chapter Twenty-Six - Severus
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Avrille’s mental powers were astounding. When Legilimency was performed on a “normal” person, the one controlling the spell would usually be flooded with bits and pieces of various scenes. It would then be the viewer’s job to connect the fragmented information and create a more clear picture. However, with Avrille, I was given fully fleshed-out memories, intricate in detail and packed with emotion.
Our second session together went as smoothly as the first, Avrille reliving for me a few of our earliest encounters with each other. My God, I had really been an absolute beast to her back then. I hoped at least now Avrille was able to understand why I had acted the way I did.
New Year’s Eve ended up being a break night for us. I did not want to push Avrille too hard, so I was keeping at least every other night free from the sessions, so her mind could rest in between. That night we simply sat together in front of the fire, Avrille telling me stories of what she used to do with her parents during holidays before her father was killed. It seemed unnecessarily cruel that Fate had taken away Avrille’s father, who had been so loving to both her and her mother, and had let mine live for as long as he did. As she happily reminisced with her head on my shoulder, I closed my eyes and inhaled the clean fragrance of her hair. At midnight we had kissed, the first time I had ever been able to experience that sweet tradition.
The following evening, which was the night before the students were returning to the school from holiday, we continued with the Legilimency. This was also where we hit our first snag. I was once more sitting beside Avrille, who was lying on the sofa. This time, instead of directing her to recall a particular memory, I asked that she simply let her mind wander. Probably because I was right there, most of these random thoughts still involved me. However, one memory eventually surfaced which contained the view of Lucius Malfoy’s face an inch away from Avrille’s. The second the real Avrille became conscious of this memory, she instinctively slammed shut her mind, and I was unceremoniously thrown out of it.
“I’m sorry …” Avrille murmured, her hands over her eyes.
“It’s all right,” I said simply, trying to keep an edge of jealousy out of my voice. I knew Lucius had tried something that night he had asked Avrille down to the Hog’s Head, but it was quite another thing to actually see him doing it. I tried to focus my thoughts instead on the amazing feat Avrille had just unknowingly accomplished; without ever being instructed in Occlumency, she had thrown off my Legilimency spell without any seeming effort.
After giving Avrille a moment to compose herself, I said coolly, “I understand if you don’t want to talk about what happened, but it will hinder our progress if you consciously block the memory from me.”
Avrille removed her hands from her eyes, and I saw that they were burning with an angry fire. “No, I need to talk about it. I don’t want you to think that anything happened … that I wanted anything to happen!”
“Of course I do not think that,” I said, softening my voice and placing a hand on her shoulder to reassure her. In certain ways, Avrille was so much more emotionally vulnerable than I was, and I had to remind myself constantly how hard parts of the Legilimency were going to be on her. I helped Avrille to rise up slowly then sat next to her. After furiously wiping away a tear that had squeezed its way out, Avrille recounted matter-of-factly everything that had happened from the moment she left the castle that night in Lucius’s carriage to when she stormed into me outside of the tavern. I drew a sharp intake of breath when she stated he had used the Imperius Curse on her, and it was only my fierce pride in her ability to throw off that spell as well that distracted me from thoughts of slitting Lucius’s throat.
“Has he spoken to you or bothered you at all since that night?” I demanded once Avrille had finished her recollection.
“No, I haven’t seen him once.”
I relaxed a little. “What we need to do here is discover what positive things can be gleaned from this memory, even though it’s upsetting,” I said, as much for myself as for her. “For instance, we can hope Lucius will keep his hands to himself in the future, now that you know his filthy little secret.”
Avrille thought for a moment. “Also,” she added, “I was able to push him away with magic. I think that’s the first new magic I’ve done in a long time!”
“Good!” I said, to encourage her. “Doing this is one way you can prevent hurtful memories from holding you in their power. Do you wish to resume?”
“Definitely,” Avrille replied firmly. She lay back down. This time the memory of Lucius surfaced right away, and Avrille allowed me to see the entire scene. Now knowing for myself what was going to happen, I was able to view it a bit more dispassionately and concentrate on watching the moment when Avrille loosed her magic at Lucius. I had to admit, I didn’t blame Lucius for his petrified expression as she descended on him in fury. Avrille, flushed with her own righteous power, was terrifying to behold.
Unfortunately for the both of us, the sessions had to be put on hold for a few days. That weekend I was stuck in my office, signing in my students who had returned to the castle from home. On Monday both Avrille and I were too busy trying to get back into the normal school routine to meet. At least now that it was the second term, and Avrille was obviously comfortable enough to speak to me if she had any questions, she did not have to continue with her written evaluations for me. That saved both of us a little bit of time, though I did miss reading her insights.
Avrille’s first observation with me for the new term was more than a little strange. It was the first time for us to be in class together since we had become lovers. I was still not completely resolved with the matter of how professionally ethical it was for me to be supervising her, but I knew we really had no other option but to continue in public as though nothing between us had changed.
January shaped up to be even more frigid than December had been. Though I did cast Warming Charms on the dungeon classrooms, they were often still so cold that Avrille and the students kept on their winter cloaks while working. That month there were no attacks, and the atmosphere in the school started to lighten somewhat. Avrille certainly seemed to be more cheerfully optimistic and began compiling packets of make-up Potions and Herbology work for Colin Creevy and Justin Finch-Fletchley.
By the second week of February, Avrille and I were still steadily progressing with her Legilimency. I always looked forward to these sessions because, through her mind, I was being slowly introduced to her family and home. We met in my rooms every evening when I didn’t have detentions or Avrille Herbology work. When we weren’t practising Legilimency, we simply sat together, and Avrille explained to me the stories behind some of the stranger memories she had, some of which, unfortunately, were examples of the bullying she had to endure at the Salem Witches’ Institute.
On the morning of February the fifteenth, I came as close as I had ever been to using the Killing Curse on a fellow human being. Lockhart had decided to force, to use his words, a “fashionably late” Valentine’s Day on the rest of the school. I’m not sure how he had managed it, owing to his deficiency in the practical magic department, but he had the Great Hall decorated overnight in various nauseating shades of pink and red and even went so far as to make heart-shaped confetti fall from the ceiling. Of course, being the simple-minded twit that he was, Lockhart had not thought to charm the confetti to keep it off of the breakfast food. After having to Vanish three consecutive cups of confetti-laced coffee, I resigned myself to starve until lunch when, hopefully, Filch would have the whole disgusting mess cleaned up.
Since on Mondays I had the first two classes free, I spent first period in my office, shaking bits of heart-shaped paper out of my hair and robes. I was determined that any “cupid” who dared to enter my classroom later would find his harp suddenly on fire. I sat at my desk, wondering if Avrille was expecting me to do something for Valentine’s Day. Though I had prepared something nevertheless, I didn’t see the point of the holiday personally. I always tried to show Avrille how much I loved her every day, so why should only one of those days be officially recognised?
A few minutes after the second period bell rang, as I was filing away some last term mark sheets that had been hiding in the back of a desk drawer, I heard a rapid knock on the door.
“Come in,” I called and turned away from the filing cabinet to see who it was. Avrille burst through the door and slammed it shut behind her, her back pressed against the wood as though to further blockade the entrance.
“Avrille, what …?” I began, but Avrille cut me off with an emphatic wave of her hand.
“—Shush!” she whispered in a panicky squeak. She then spun around to press her ear against the door, as though listening for something in the distance. After nearly a full minute, she murmured, “I think I lost him.”
“Lost who?” I asked in a stage whisper. Avrille turned around again but this time sagged exhaustedly against the door.
“Another one of Lockhart’s ridiculous cupids, that’s who. I’ve already had three interrupt my Herbology observation with valentines from students. Professor Sprout knew it wasn’t my fault, but I still felt terrible. I saw a fourth heading straight for me as I re-entered the castle, so I ran for it.”
I started to laugh, but the stormy look Avrille threw in my direction silenced me instantly.
“And as if that wasn’t enough, look what I found in my mailbox this morning from over the weekend,” she said, walking over to my desk and upending her bag over it. Along with several quills and an assortment of cosmetics and other toiletries, out spilled dozens of valentines, sliding over each other and onto the floor. I walked over to stand beside her and better appreciate the collection.
“I’m not sure if I am supposed to be jealous or not,” I commented honestly.
“I mean, it’s very sweet and all but slightly inappropriate, don’t you think?” Avrille asked as she furiously shovelled the valentines and personal items back into her bag.
“Slightly,” I agreed, though thinking to myself it wasn’t any more inappropriate than her having an affair with her supervisor. However, seeing the mood Avrille was in, I knew it would be a grave mistake to point that out.
“Freaking Lockhart had to go and thank the students who sent him valentines already! What an egotistical, narcissistic prick! I’ve always hated goddamned Valentine’s Day!” Avrille ranted as she bent over to reclaim the valentines which had slipped onto the floor. I raised my eyebrows at her stooped back. I had never heard Avrille use such colourful language before. She must have been truly furious.
“I suppose you won’t be wanting this then,” I said with an exaggerated sigh, as I Conjured the present I had prepared for her: a rather special long-stemmed red rose.
“What?!” Avrille’s head shot up from down beside my desk.
“I’ll just dispose of it then, shall I?” I said and made as though to reach into my robes for my wand.
“No!” Avrille exclaimed, jumping up and grabbing my wrist. With her other hand, she gently took the rose from me. She released me from her hold then inhaled the rose’s scent as she cupped it between her palms.
“It’s beautiful,” she breathed quietly.
“I’ve charmed it so that it will stay in bloom for over a year, as long as you keep it in water,” I explained. Avrille looked up at me, her eyes shining.
“Can you renew the charm then, so it will last even longer?” she asked.
I couldn’t help but smile, understanding from her words that she hoped we would still be together when that time came. “Of course,” I replied, taking her in my arms gently as to not crush the flower, “But I hope by then, you will be able to do that yourself.”
After holding each other for a few moments, Avrille sat beside me at my desk while I marked some homework. Her curiosity getting the better of her, she systematically opened and read the students’ valentines one by one. I was rather interested to know what they said, as well, and if any students had been brave enough to sign their names, but I didn’t ask since I knew Avrille would want to guard the students’ privacy. A few times Avrille laughed out loud, shaking her head in disbelief, but then would quickly stash the valentine back into her bag without any explanation.
Once she was done reading every one, she tipped back in her chair and asked with heavy sarcasm, “So, did you receive any valentines this morning?”
“Not this year,” I replied distractedly, as I transcribed the marks into my ledger.
“You mean you have in the past?!” Avrille exclaimed, dropping her chair forward in her surprise.
“What, is that so hard to believe?” I asked jokingly, looking up at her.
“No, it’s just that I figured the students would be too scared of you to, you know, think about you in that way.”
I sighed. “As much as I wish that were true, I have in the past received a few valentines, anonymously of course. I always promptly threw them into the fire.”
“Ooh … harsh.” Avrille winced playfully, crossing her arms and legs. “You were never curious enough to read them?”
“No,” I replied. “Like you, I found it to be inappropriate.”
Just then, the end of period bell rang, and I had to leave to teach the first-year Gryffindors and Slytherins. Avrille was still terrified of the cupids, so I permitted her to remain in my office until lunch. As it happened, one cupid did try to enter my classroom that period. After seeing the withering look on my face as he started to waddle between the desks, however, the dwarf promptly and smartly backed out of the room. No one interrupted my classes after that.
That night Avrille and I met for Legilimency. She brought down my rose in a lovely crystal vase, saying that she wanted to keep it in my rooms since Caligula had already tried to eat it.
“You know, you can bring him down here sometimes, if you want,” I offered, watching Avrille as she knelt beside the coffee table, fiddling with the bloom to make it stand just right in the vase.
Avrille shook her head. “No, this is good for him. He’s always been too spoiled.” Finally happy with the way the rose looked, she moved to lay on the couch to prepare herself for the evening’s mental exercises.
For the past of couple of weeks, I had been asking Avrille to show me only memories from between her eighth and twelfth birthdays. I was trying my hardest to find clues relating to her magical blockage with her being conscious but was quickly coming to the realisation that it might not be possible. In a last attempt to forego the dangerous undertaking of performing Legilimency on an unconscious mind, I asked Avrille once more to try and remember as close to her father’s death as she could.
As I entered her mind, I was confronted with a now very familiar scene; I had already viewed this memory numerous times, but that did not lessen the horror of it.
A nine-year-old Avrille stood at her upstairs bedroom window, her eyes open wide with terror. In the yard outside, Armand Asphodel could be seen duelling two large men, his shoulder-length auburn hair flying as he shot hex after hex at his attackers. Two other men lay on the grass, bleeding and unconscious.
“Stupefy!” Asphodel yelled, sending the smaller of the two men, whom I recognised bore a slight resemblance to my old school “friend” Carrington, flying unconscious into the koi pond. From somewhere below Avrille on the ground floor, her mother’s voice could be heard screaming Avrille’s name in panicked desperation. Avrille seemed unable to hear her as she focused her attention on the duel below her.
Then without warning, in a flash of green light, the last attacker shot the Avada Kedavra curse straight at Asphodel’s chest. As he fell, it seemed to both the young Avrille and to me that his eyes focused on the first storey window, where his daughter stood frozen in horror. As his body hit the ground, the memory turned black. A second later, it reformed into another memory I had also already viewed several times.
Young Avrille stood beside her mother, Isadora, a witch no older then than I was now. Both were attired in black dresses, her mother also wearing a black hat with an attached black lace veil. In front of them, a glossy mahogany casket was being slowly levitated into the ground by a guard of mostly young, black-robed wizards. Avrille explained to me before that these men had been her father’s fellow Healers at his job at the Angitia Sanatorium. With one of her black gloved hands, Mrs Asphodel clutched the hand of her daughter, while the other held a pure white handkerchief to her mouth as she shook with sobs. Avrille stood perfectly still and emotionless next to her mother, viewing the coffin with no expression on her face. Her small brown eyes seemed like two empty voids watching the remains of her father sink into the ground, not focused on what was in front of her. A tall, handsome man with short, greying auburn hair, Asphodel’s eldest brother, stood to begin his eulogy.
Through a solid grey mist, the memory transitioned to one I had not yet seen. It appeared to be a few weeks later. Avrille was buried in bed with several down coverlets pulled up almost completely over her head. A single candle on the nightstand illuminated her room dimly. Behind Avrille’s huddled form, her mother could be seen standing in the open doorway with her pale hands set determinedly on her hips. She was addressing a white-robed man, with the emblem of a balanced scale superimposed over a red maple leaf over his heart.
“No, I will not hear of it. She’s not well enough,” Mrs Asphodel stated firmly to the man.
“But without her testimony, we can’t be sure of a conviction,” the prosecutor argued, jabbing with an ink-stained finger a bundle of parchment he was holding. “She was the only one who actually saw the accused kill your husband.”
Mrs Asphodel moved her hands from her hips to the doorframe, further sealing it off from the prosecutor, and shook her head. “You’ll just have to rely on the other evidence: the Prior Incantato spell from that monster’s wand and the testimony of those other men you granted plea bargains to. I shouldn’t have even brought Avrille to the funeral. I forbid her to be exposed to something as upsetting as a trial. Armand would not have wanted that.” Without waiting for another argument, Mrs Asphodel pushed herself past the prosecutor, slamming Avrille’s door behind them. Avrille peeked over the edge of her covers and, after seeing her mother had gone, pulled the blankets up once more so she was completely hidden. Only then could muffled sobs be heard.
I released Avrille from the Legilimency spell. I sat back, both frustrated and dispirited by what I had seen. No matter how hard Avrille tried to remember, we simply could not view the time between her father’s murder and his funeral, which her mother had postponed for several weeks due to Avrille’s poor health. The scene I had just viewed with the barrister was interesting but revealed no pertinent information.
From the couch Avrille looked up at me and smiled.
“I don’t know how you can smile after reliving that,” I said softly.
Avrille sat up quickly, now able to recover from the Legilimency almost instantly without any physical effects.
“I can smile because I’m here with you. I’ve had those memories more than half of my life. Unfortunately, I’ve grown used to them.” She took my hands in hers as she rested her elbows on her knees. Now that she was closer, I could see that though she was smiling, there was still a sadness behind her eyes.
“I think we’ve completely exhausted this method,” I said, shaking my head in dismay. “I’m hesitant to do this, but I think we should try Passive Legilimency. I will place you under a very mild sleeping spell that will nevertheless render you unable to control your own thoughts, therefore making you a passive subject. Without your conscious mind directing your memory, it should be possible for me to delve even deeper. However, you must understand that this could be very dangerous. I’m confident in my ability to enter your unconscious mind without damaging it, but you still should be aware of the risks—”
“Severus,” she interrupted me gently. I still felt a swoop in my stomach every time she said my name. “You know I trust you. I want you to do whatever you think is best.”
I considered her, trying to think of any other option left to us. “I do believe this is your best chance,” I finally said.
“Then I want to do it,” she replied without hesitation.
“All right, but I want to wait until the weekend. That will give your mind several days to rest, and I can work all day uninterrupted if need be.” That said, I pulled Avrille onto my lap, tossing my wand onto the sofa so I could hold her face in my hands. I sat there for a while, looking deep into Avrille’s eyes and still reckoning with how she had been able to grow up into such a strong, stable woman after a childhood like hers.
“I love you,” I finally whispered then gently kissed her, savouring the soft crush of her lips as they pressed against mine.
Fortunately, the next morning all of the previous day’s disgusting decorations were absent from the Great Hall. Without needing to actually discuss the matter out loud, my fellow professors and I vowed to never speak of that day again.
Friday night, Avrille came down to my rooms after dinner, which I had skipped in order to prepare myself in complete silence for what I was about to do. Even though I reminded myself over and over again that practising Passive Legilimency on Avrille was more or less the same process as what I had already been doing with her, I was still feeling nervous. Nerves were not going to make things any easier. The problem lay in the uncomfortable fact that I had never actually done this before.
I had, of course, read about it extensively as well as observed it being done on other people. However, those observations had usually involved watching other Death Eaters implant false memories into unconscious victims, the only use of Passive Legilimency the Death Eaters considered worthwhile. The books I had read on the subject were fascinating, though vague as to what one was supposed to do specifically, once inside the unconscious mind. Because each and every mind is different, and no two practitioners of Legilimency operated exactly the same way, it was nearly impossible to give definitive instructions.
Avrille sat beside me as I tried to explain to her what I was going to do. She was wearing loose, comfortable clothing as I had instructed since I wasn’t sure how long the process would take.
I said slowly and deliberately, “First, I will put you to sleep using a charm that will prevent you from dreaming and cluttering up your thoughts with random images. After you are unconscious, I will enter your mind. Because we have been doing so much Legilimency over the past seven weeks, not only am I already very used to operating inside of your mind, but I’m also familiar with the way your conscious memories are organised. I know where certain memories should be and also where the gaps are. Once I have peeled away all of the layers, if there is anything for me to discover, I should find it quickly. This should lessen the risk of what I’m doing.”
“Peel away the layers? You make me sound like an onion,” Avrille said, wrinkling her nose.
I nodded. “That is a good metaphor. Your mind is going to be rather like an onion. The outer layers, which are your conscious thoughts, should flake away easily. Inside of those are the thicker levels of your unconscious, the area I’m going to be trying to access. This is the dangerous part, for it will be like trying to peel an onion without tearing a single membrane. Of course, in the centre is the realm of the Forgotten, which are memories that could never, under any circumstance be retrieved; for instance, memories of when you were an infant and did not yet have a mental sense of ‘self.’ Many people hypothesise that this is also where the soul of a person lies. Only the Darkest magic could ever affect the Forgotten mind, and to do so would destroy the person utterly. The Kiss of a Dementor, for instance, obliterates the Forgotten mind, hollowing out the victim into a selfless shell.”
Avrille nodded silently, her eyes unfocused on the carpet in front of her as she listened. She was running her fingertips over the back of my hand, an absentminded gesture that was, nevertheless, making it a little harder for me to keep my train of thought.
“If I am able to find the right memory, something to explain how and why you blocked out your magic, I will extract it. Once out of your mind, we will then be able to view it even more completely than if you were remembering it consciously. But, assuming everything goes as I hope, I’ll touch more on that later. Are you ready?”
“Yes,” Avrille answered, heaving a huge sigh. “Are you?” she asked.
“I had better be … Why don’t you lie down so I can place the sleeping charm on you.”
Avrille did as I asked after kissing me quickly, arranging herself into the most comfortable position she could with what room she had on the sofa.
“I’ll see you later, then,” she said lightly. She honestly did not appear to be scared of what I was about to do. I wished I could say the same for myself. I took a deep, cleansing breath, praying I would live up to her faith in me.
“I’m going to do the charm now,” I said. Avrille closed her eyes and nodded, her hands clasped over her stomach.
Raising my wand, I waved it once over her body and murmured, “Somniculosa.” Immediately, Avrille’s body relaxed, her head falling more slack against the pillow and her breathing slowing to a gentle rhythm. Forcing down one more gulp of air to clear my own head, I pointed my wand straight at her forehead, closed my own eyes, and said, “Legilimens.”
At first it was like diving into a river on a moonless night. Everything in Avrille’s mind was black since she was not actively thinking or dreaming. I had expected this and was prepared for it. Immediately, I relaxed and mentally pictured how we were both positioned in my parlour. I thought of what clothes I was wearing at the moment, and how I would have looked to her. As soon as I had this perfectly imagined, I could see myself, sitting in the armchair, explaining to Avrille what I was about to do. Good. I had managed to prime her memory and trick it into thinking she was recalling this recent event when, in fact, I was recreating it for her. Once I had this memory, it was like grabbing the frayed ends of an unravelling rope, and with painstaking carefulness, I began to pull myself through the sea of memories that suddenly opened up in front of me.
Because almost all of Avrille’s memories from Hogwarts either directly involved me or were of events that I had also experienced on my own, I was able to delicately shove those aside with almost no effort. As I moved onwards, or backwards depending on your point of reference, I came to Avrille’s memories of the late spring before she travelled to Britain. A cool breeze blew several straggling tree blossoms from their swaying green branches and in through the window of the Asphodel home. Avrille was standing in the kitchen next to her mother and ripping open a long, official-looking envelope. Mrs Asphodel looked older than I was used to seeing her, with several streaks of grey in her chocolaty hair that nevertheless perfectly accented her dignified beauty. After pulling out the thick packet of parchment, Avrille’s eyes raced over the first few lines.
“I GOT IT!” she screamed. “I WAS ACCEPTED AT HOGWARTS!” Avrille began jumping up and down and squealing with glee. Her mother smiled but looked apprehensive.
“I just wish it wasn’t so far away …” Mrs Asphodel muttered behind a hand half covering her mouth, her eyes slightly wet.
“Mom, it doesn’t matter how far away it is! Do you have any idea how lucky I am?! I am going to be the apprentice of Professor Severus Snape! The most brilliant potion-brewer in the entire world!” Avrille spun around then threw the acceptance letter into the air. I smiled to myself, if it can be called smiling when one isn’t exactly connected with one’s own body at the moment, flattered by Avrille’s adoration of me even then, though knowing I was nowhere near as brilliant as she’d exclaimed.
I released this memory and let it flow away. I pushed forward, passing by all the memories of Avrille at the Berkshires School of Witchery. I knew the memories I was searching for would have taken place in Avrille’s own home. Another flash of the Asphodel kitchen caught my attention. Reaching forward, I delicately pulled it closer to me. Because this was before Avrille entered graduate school, I placed her to be around eighteen-years-old. Her hair was shorter, cut in a flattering pageboy that swung jauntily around her face as she bent over and reached into a large cardboard box. An anxious mewling could be heard from inside, which stopped instantly as Avrille pulled her hands out. They were cupping a tiny, tan Siamese kitten. Even though he was about one-twentieth the size I was used to, I knew instantly that it was Caligula. I had never seen another cat in my life with such a signature glare of ownership in his crossed blue eyes as he looked up pathetically at Avrille.
“Oh, Mom! He’s just perfect!” Avrille gushed at her mother, who was smiling and holding a cardboard lid with holes cut out of it.
“Do you know what you’ll name him?” she asked.
“I know just the thing!” Avrille exclaimed, cuddling the soon-to-be christened Caligula to her heart and tickling his belly. With another smile, I set this memory free. If I was only as far back as when Avrille was just entering graduate school, I still had a long ways to go.
Though my instinct was to plunge blindly ahead through the next few years, I forced myself to search with restraint. I was already starting to feel a slight fatigue and the smallest lapse in concentration. If I wanted to access the deepest guarded memories of Avrille’s unconscious, I would have to pace myself.
Still pulling myself forward through the river of memory with the thin rope of thought, I tried to relax and let Avrille’s memories of the Salem Witches’ Institute drift lazily by. Even though it had only been a few years since the event, already at sixteen Avrille would have completely blocked out the time surrounding her father’s murder. Now that I was coming closer, as I looked ahead, I could see a spot the older memories avoided. It was like a large boulder dropped into a stream. However, whereas a real stream would have been unable to flow quickly by the blockage and thus overflow onto the banks, Avrille’s memories trickled through as rapidly as anything. The few moments here and there that I had already witnessed of Avrille during that terrible time after her father’s murder created gates, where her older memories of childhood could meld seamlessly with her later recollections of preadolescence. None of the memories seemed particularly bothered by the enormous, impenetrable area in the middle, which fit since when conscious, Avrille had not ever tried to force herself to remember that time until recently.
By now I was almost through Avrille’s teenage years. I saw events that were quite private and I knew Avrille would never have told me about, such as her first kiss with a neighbourhood boy when she was fourteen. None of these things bothered me since seeing Avrille as a child really made her almost like a different person. Though it was not quite at the time period I was searching for, I stopped at one particular memory I wanted to review.
Avrille and her mother were standing outside a dusty shop window that escaped the notice of numerous Muggles hurrying by. Since I was a wizard, I could easily make out the sign above the door, which simply read, “Patterson’s Wands.” Though technically wearing Muggle clothes, Avrille was dressed much more fancily than the Muggle children who ran by her in ripped denim and grubby cotton shirts. Her mother had outfitted her in a cream-coloured silk pinafore, startlingly white tights, and shining patent leather shoes. Her waist-length russet hair was gathered with a cream bow into a tail of shining curls. She looked like a beautiful Victorian porcelain doll. Mrs Asphodel, likewise, was dressed impeccably in a very flatteringly tailored jacket, knee-length skirt, and pillbox hat of midnight blue. The passing Muggle women openly stared at her, as though she were royalty who had somehow stumbled into the wrong part of town.
Taking Avrille by the hand, Mrs Asphodel opened the door, setting a small bell tinkling, and led her daughter inside. I allowed a few minutes of their waiting in the gloomy foyer to slide by effortlessly until they were face to face with the wand-maker.
“What’s the point, Mom? It’s not like I’m ever going to use the stupid thing,” Avrille grumbled moodily, as she pulled absentmindedly at one of her curls.
“Yes, you will! We just have to be patient until it returns!” her mother whispered determinedly before turning back to the wand-maker and explaining what they were looking for. As her mother and the wand-maker conversed, Avrille kicked at the counter, scuffing her perfect shoes. I could tell by the expression on her face that she wanted a wand desperately but was terrified the wand-maker was going to turn her away. Since I had already viewed this memory before with Avrille, I knew she had been chosen by a wand eventually without any problems, a lovely, supple, twelve and a half inch rosewood with a unicorn hair core. The wand-maker gushed it was the most beautiful wand he had ever carved and was completely unaware that Avrille was quite different from any other young witch.
Not observing anything new in this memory, I pulled back from it and continued my slow but steady pace towards the great charcoal block, which stood like a weighted shadow as colourful memories slid by it lithely. Now that I was so close, I kept my attention fixed solidly on what was ahead, letting other superfluous memories pass unexamined. As I gently made my way nearer and nearer, I focused on surrounding my presence with an air of sheer innocuousness. Soon I was directly at the edge of the wall of Avrille’s suppressed memories. It was like the moment when I had first begun the Legilimency all over again, where the blackness of what was in front of me completely eclipsed the light of the other memories, which passed by unseen. Still exuding an aura of innocent inquisitiveness, I gently brushed my mind against the wall. The memories bristled defensively for a moment, but then recognising my magic, they relaxed. Because of Avrille’s pure love and faith in me, I was able to pass through the wall with almost no effort.
Once inside, it was as if I were back in the river of memory. Colour exploded as normally hidden memories swilled against the black wall of repression, trying only half-heartedly to escape and completely happy to swirl around once more when blocked. I stayed right at the edge of the wall and delved into the first memory that passed my way.
Avrille was lying in bed in her room, much as how I had seen her in other memories. However, in this scene, she seemed to be just barely conscious. Her normally lustrous brown eyes were just two slits in a ravaged face. Though I couldn’t see her body under the blankets, I could tell that it would be disturbingly skeletal. Her mother, a few wisps of grey already visible around her temples, held Avrille’s limp hand in both of hers. She was weeping. Another woman, a Healer from the same Sanatorium as Armand Asphodel by the look of her uniform, was carefully tipping a potion between Avrille’s barely parted lips. After administering the medicine, the Healer moved to stand beside Mrs Asphodel and placed a hand tenderly on her shoulder.
“Don’t worry, ma’am. She’ll soon be right as rain. I won’t move from her side until she is. It’s the least I can do, for Armand.”
So, Avrille had already witnessed her father’s murder and was being nursed back to health. I knew I had to go further back. I sifted through the memories until I found one where the Healer was not present, and Avrille was fully awake. However, it had been easier for me to see her as she had been before, drugged but receiving care.
Avrille was huddled on her bed, which was made and appeared to have been sat on but not slept in for quite some time. She was holding her knees drawn up to her chest, staring unblinkingly at the wall across from her. Mrs Asphodel was shaking her, begging her to talk, but Avrille would not acknowledge her presence. She was completely catatonic. Seeing that whatever damage Avrille had inflicted on herself was apparently already done, I kept moving.
It was a few days earlier. Avrille was still on her bed, almost in the same position, but this time with her face pressed against her arms. Mrs Asphodel was holding out a bowl of steaming porridge, trying to convince Avrille to take a spoonful. Avrille shook her buried head and whispered, “I’m not hungry.”
“Avrille, you haven’t eaten for three days!” her mother pleaded.
“I’m not hungry,” came Avrille’s emotionless response.
Only the knowledge that Avrille had made a completely full physical recovery allowed me to keep my concentration intact while viewing these terrible scenes. I couldn’t even imagine how her mother had been able to persevere through it all, with the added grief of losing her husband.
I was quickly moving through all of the repressed memories and had yet to see something that would give me even the slightest clue as to what had stopped Avrille’s magic. At the moment it appeared it had been simply from emotional and physical shock, but I was still adamant in my belief that would not have been enough by itself to cut off her power for over a decade and a half. There had to be something else …
Forcing myself to remain calm and not panic with frustration, I observed each memory as it came to me. They were all just a backwards account of Avrille’s slip into catatonia and the arrival of the Healer. Finally, I came to the very last scene, the one that would show whether or not this whole endeavour had been pointless. I gathered every last bit of mental focus together as I dove into this final memory: the day of Avrille’s father’s murder.
I watched the scene play out. As it began I wondered why Avrille had shut it away. There didn’t seem to be anything in it worse than her father’s actual murder, which she did consciously remember. Armand Asphodel returned home early from work. He and his wife had a romantically inclined conversation in the kitchen, not knowing where Avrille was. Since it was Avrille’s memory, I could see where she was clearly: upstairs in her room, drawing. One thing Mrs Asphodel said to her husband did catch my notice, and I kept it in the back of my thoughts as I watched Asphodel run out of the house to hold off the intruders while his wife searched the house for their daughter.
The same battle I had viewed over and over played out before me once again. I saw Asphodel fall and the killer vanish into the woods. For the first time, I watched Mrs Asphodel throw open the back door to Avrille’s room and grab her daughter by the arm, pulling her into the Floo with her. They arrived in a small, cluttered parlour, probably belonging to Mrs Asphodel’s parents since there were numerous photographs of Avrille and other small children on the walls. Mrs Asphodel turned her daughter around to face her, demanding to know if she was all right. Avrille stared at her mother for a moment with an expression that I myself had seen on her face a few months ago. Avrille uttered one sentence of only four words …
… And I knew that I had found it.
In an instant everything fell into perfect place, and I was certain no one but me could have solved it. Someone else viewing the same memory would not have been able to discern the same clues as me, and that was because I had something deeply precious. Even before I knew I had her love, Avrille had, in a single conversation, shown me that I had her trust.
With the utmost, painstaking care, I withdrew myself from the memory then delicately took hold of it before it could float away. It was like trying to hold a spider web intact while swimming. Even more slowly than I had entered, I mentally backed out of the wall surrounding the repressed memories, keeping the delicate web-work of thought cocooned with my remaining strength. Once through, I let the river of memory gently take me away in its flow to the present. I gave one last look to the nearly black wall of repressed memories, wondering if somehow it knew I had just removed its most preciously guarded gem. But now it didn’t matter. If I was indeed correct with all of my conjecturing and conclusions, after viewing the memory I was removing, Avrille would hopefully be allowed to see those other past pains again soon and without fear.
Leaving Avrille’s mind was much quicker than trying to search my way through it. Within immeasurable moments, I was at the very edge of her consciousness. Here I stopped and tenderly placed down the memory I had rescued. Hoping my calculations were correct and that it would still be there when I left, I released Avrille from the Legilimency spell.
I fell back against the armchair in sheer exhaustion. The hand holding my wand aloft was shaking uncontrollably. I had no idea how long I had been actually sustaining the spell. However, I was aware that I still had the most important task to accomplish; leaving a memory like that in Avrille’s immediate consciousness when she awoke held the true risk of driving her instantly insane.
After taking a few deep breaths and willing my body and mind to act as a single entity once more, I Conjured a small glass vial. Raising my wand with effort, I placed the tip to Avrille’s temple and slowly siphoned out the memory, which clung to my wand like spider silk. With a sharp shake, I deposited the memory into the vial and sealed it with the stopper. I dropped the vial on the coffee table next to me and raised my wand a final time to release Avrille from the sleeping charm. As Avrille slowly opened her eyes, I collapsed back into the chair, unable to even speak.
Avrille rubbed her eyes with the heels of her hands and looked over at me. I tried to give her a weak smile as I rested my forehead against trembling fingers, though I couldn’t be sure if I had been able to move my lips or not.
“Severus!” she gasped, sitting upright. She leaned over and took my wand from me before I dropped it, placing it on the table. “Are you all right?!”
“Yes,” I was able to whisper. My mind was so exhausted that I wasn’t able to think of any words to explain what I had just done. Instead, I wearily jerked my chin slightly at the vial on the table.
Avrille’s eyes widened. “You found something? But … it wasn’t worth this! You’re shaking like a leaf!”
I muttered, “Cabinet … red potion …” I felt like I was going to pass out at any moment. A headache was shooting from my temples across the bridge of my nose. I had never experienced this sort of aftereffect from Legilimency, but I had also never attempted anything as complicated and rigorous as tonight.
Avrille sprang up and ran over to the cabinet where she knew I kept my medicines. Fortunately, she knew exactly which one I had meant and brought it straight over. She gently made me move aside so she could sit directly next to me in the wide armchair. After removing the stopper, Avrille placed the potion in my hand while holding it steady with her own, allowing me to raise it to my lips and drink without pouring it all over myself. I swallowed and closed my eyes. I allowed the empty decanter to fall from my hand onto the carpet.
“I’ll be all right … in a minute …” I said, opening my eyes slightly.
“Hush,” Avrille said and placed her arm around me, tipping my head so it was resting on her shoulder. I closed my eyes once more and breathed in the warm perfume of Avrille’s neck as the Strengthening Solution slowly spread life back into my limbs. While she held me tightly against her with her right arm, Avrille stroked my hair with the fingers of her left hand, making me wish I could simply fall asleep. However, I knew that before I could sleep, I had to explain to Avrille what I had done and what our next move should be, now that we had the memory.
The Strengthening Solution finally worked its way up into my head, dispelling some of the headache and allowing me to bring two thoughts together.
“What time is it?” I asked. Avrille craned her neck to read the clock behind us.
“Wow … Past three in the morning.”
We had started at seven in the evening, which meant I had been inside of Avrille’s mind for over eight hours. No wonder I was on the verge of collapse.
“You need to go to bed,” Avrille stated, turning her attention back to me.
I shook my head. “I want to tell you about the next steps we should take …” I made to reach for the vial, but Avrille gently held me back.
“No. You need to go to bed,” she repeated firmly. I looked to Avrille in slight amazement. I had thought that more than anything she would have wanted to know what I had found immediately. However, hearing her tone of voice, I knew it would be pointless to argue with her.
“Come on,” she said and stood up. She offered her hands to me, and I was ashamed that I needed them to help me rise. Once standing, I felt as though I were deathly ill. The room spun around me, and I almost fell to the floor. However, exhibiting a sudden incredible strength, Avrille grabbed me around my waist and helped me to stagger into my bedroom. I knew Avrille was right and, though the Strengthening Solution was helping to keep me coherent, I needed a very deep sleep to put everything to rights.
I fell on to the bed, and Avrille tugged off my shoes. Reaching across me, she pulled over the blanket.
“What will you do?” I asked. Avrille shrugged as she tucked the blanket in around me.
“I’m obviously not tired myself, so I’ll probably just read in the other room.” Then, somehow guessing my next statement, she added, “And I’ll make sure to take a nap before the morning so I’m all rested for whatever you have planned tomorrow. That is, if you are well enough.”
“I will be,” I promised.
“You’re sure that you’re all right?” she asked one more time.
“Yes, I just need some sleep.” I was already having to battle to keep my eyes open.
“Ok. I’ll be right outside if you need anything. Good night,” Avrille said and kissed me lightly on the lips. After blowing out the few lighted candles, she retired to the parlour, pulling the double doors closed behind her. I fell asleep instantaneously.
Fortunately, I slept very deeply and soundly. I had been slightly worried with such a taxation on my mind and after viewing such upsetting visions of Avrille’s childhood, that I would be vulnerable to nightmares, thus making my time asleep virtually worthless in the healing respect. However, if I dreamt anything, when I awoke some time later, I could not remember it. As I slowly opened my eyes in the complete darkness, I could feel instantly that my body was sore all over, most likely from sitting in the same hunched position for hours the night before. But besides that slight physical nuisance, in all other respects, I felt quite well. My headache had vanished, and my mind felt clear and collected. It seemed I had been suffering only from simple fatigue, after such a lengthy mental exercise.
Remembering my wand was still in the other room, I closed my eyes once more and focused all of my concentration on lighting the lamp beside my bed. Though not nearly as talented as Professor Dumbledore, I was able to do several magic spells without my wand, but it required an exponentially larger amount of concentration. A flare behind my eyelids told me I had succeeded, and I opened my eyes to reach blearily for my watch on the night stand. After squinting at the small numbers in the bright light, I was able to make out that it was just before noon. I sighed and dropped my head back onto the pillow. I knew I had needed it, but I had never allowed myself to sleep so late in my life.
I forced myself out of bed and into the shower, hoping Avrille wasn’t waiting for me and had eaten something. The hot water helped to relax some of the muscles in my back, which were cramped into tight knots. After shaving and dressing, I opened the doors that separated us. Avrille was lying on the sofa, covered by a thin blanket, and she lifted her head when she heard me enter.
“How are you feeling?” she asked as she sat up and stretched. It appeared she had already returned to her rooms at least once since she had changed clothes as well. Her hair was slightly mussed from lying down, but the dishevelled look made her even more becoming than usual.
“Much recovered, thank you.” I sat beside her. Avrille was still wrapped in the blanket and leaned against me.
“So, what exactly did you find last night?” she asked, unable to contain her curiosity any longer.
“That,” I replied, pointing to the glass vial, which was still sitting where I had left it the night before on the table. “I was able to locate and remove one of your blocked memories that I strongly believe is the direct cause of your magical stoppage.”
“But, if you removed it,” Avrille said, leaning forward to pick up the memory, “why do I still feel like I can’t do any additional magic?” She tipped the vial back and forth, watching the silvery substance swirling on the inside, a movement somewhere between floating and sloshing.
“Unfortunately, it’s not that simple,” I said. “Since you couldn’t remember the memory to begin with, removing it really isn’t going to make much difference. What I think you have to do is actually view the memory. Viewing it will help you understand it. Understanding leads to acceptance, and once acceptance is achieved, you can begin to heal.”
Avrille nodded slowly at my words, her lips pursed as though deep in thought.
“So, how can I view it, then? Through Legilimency once more?”
I shook my head. “I have a better way, but it requires me to make a visit to the headmaster first. He has a rare tool, a Pensieve, that will allow both of us to actually enter the memory itself. Experiencing a memory through a Pensieve is as close as you can get to fully reliving it. Not only does it replay the immediate core of the memory, the part you would be able to consciously recall, but also all of the residual details. For example, say you are walking down the street, and you heard two people talking as you passed. Your brain, being the amazing machine that it is, will automatically record every single thing those two people say until they are out of your hearing. However, it is highly unlikely you would be able to recall anything of that exchange at a later date by yourself. But placing a memory in a Pensieve amplifies every single detail, so you would once more be able to hear that superfluous conversation word for word.”
“That’s amazing …” Avrille said quietly. “And Professor Dumbledore has one of those?”
“Yes. I’ve borrowed it from him before to review some of my own memories, so I am sure he will lend it to me again. I think it would be best if we both went to eat now, separately of course, and after lunch I will approach Professor Dumbledore about a brief loan. If you want to come back down here in a few hours’ time, I should have it.”
I paused, trying to put into words all of the numerous concerns I was feeling. I lifted up a corner of the blanket and found Avrille’s warm hand. I grasped it tightly as I looked deep into her dark eyes.
“You need to understand there are no guarantees that viewing this memory will do anything. I have hazarded a guess as to what it means, but I could be completely off the mark. It might end up simply upsetting you.”
“It’s all right,” Avrille said softly. “It’s true I did once hide it away, but that was when I was a little girl. Whatever it is, I’ll handle it, and I will be fine. You don’t need to worry about me.”
“I can’t help but worry about you,” I said quietly, bringing her hand to my lips. I knew this whole process was necessary for Avrille to ever hope to use the full range of her extraordinary magic, but I was so afraid she would end up hurt for nothing. I knew she was an incredibly brave and strong woman, but I also couldn’t help my own masculine instinct to protect her from any harm.
“I will be fine,” she repeated with soft emphasis.
I hoped with all of my heart she would turn out to be right.
Professor Dumbledore was not at lunch, so after eating I walked up to his office, hoping he had simply been busy and was not away from the castle at the moment. Obviously Avrille’s contained memory wasn’t going anywhere, but I felt the need to finish the whole business as soon as possible. Fortunately, Professor Dumbledore was in his office, reading with a concerned expression that made his aged face seem even more lined than usual. I hated myself for thinking it, but with the headmaster’s and the other teachers’ attention focused on the attacks in the school, it was that much easier for Avrille and me to remain undetected.
I asked Professor Dumbledore for the Pensieve, simply saying I had a memory I wanted to review. He was happy to accommodate me, so while holding the Pensieve carefully, I stepped into the Floo in his office and then out into my own rooms. I hadn’t wanted to risk carrying such a priceless artefact down so many stairs when my muscles were already screaming from the walk up.
Glad that it had been so easy to obtain the Pensieve, I pulled out the stopper sealing away Avrille’s memory immediately and poured it into the shallow stone basin. I swilled the memory around a few times, until looking inside I could make out an aerial view of Avrille’s childhood bedroom. I wanted to review the memory one more time in its entirety before Avrille arrived, so I took a slow, deep breath and allowed myself to fall forward.
Seeing the memory for a second time reinforced my belief that this was the key to the whole mystery. The Pensieve made everything even more discernable and detailed. I could see exactly what Avrille had been drawing and even hear the songs of birds floating in through the open window. Once the entire scene was completed, I turned away from the vision of Avrille at her grandparents’ house and pulled myself out of the Pensieve.
I did not know how long it would be until Avrille came back, so I tried to distract myself to make the time pass more quickly. To be honest I felt like I was always trying to make the time pass more quickly when Avrille wasn’t with me. For the first time in over three months, I pulled out my various notes I had started over the summer concerning the Invisibility Potion I was trying to invent. At the time it had seemed so important. I had wanted to create something so impressive that I would be remembered for decades to come. Now, however, I found that though it would still be an interesting theory to pursue, I really didn’t care if I succeeded or not. I would much rather put my efforts towards helping Avrille and providing her with the best life I could.
A little bit after three o’clock, Avrille arrived, looking fresh and rested. I hoped her revitalised state would help her handle the difficult scene she was about to view. I was standing next to the Pensieve, which I had placed on my desk. With a deep breath of commitment, she came to stand next to me.
“So that’s it?” she asked after a moment’s silence.
“Yes. We can begin whenever you are ready.”
“I don’t think I’m ever going to be truly ready, so let’s just get this over with.”
I nodded solemnly. “All we have to do is lean over the Pensieve. Its magic will pull us into the memory, and from there we simply have to watch it unfold.”
I waited, thinking Avrille might want to make the first move. However, she simply stood there, staring at the swirling silver mist of her memory with wide, unblinking eyes. Reaching out, I took her hand and held it tightly.
“I will be with you,” I said reassuringly.
Avrille looked to me, and I could see she was slightly pale. I was well aware that this whole time she had been putting on a brave face, speaking as though witnessing this memory would be easy. It was only the slight trembling I felt in her fingers, that were pressed against the back of my hand, that gave her fear away.
In a voice calm and composed, Avrille said, “I’m ready.”
Together we leaned forward until our faces were almost touching the vaporous surface of her memory. In an instant we were falling through cold darkness then blinded with the bright sunshine of the Canadian afternoon.
Avrille held a hand up to her eyes until they had adjusted to the light then looked around. We were in her bedroom, a small but cosy space with pale pink walls and white furniture. Young Avrille was seated on the carpeted floor at a low table in the middle of the room, colouring a picture while humming quietly to herself. She was dressed in worn, comfortable brown corduroy pants and an oversized shirt with paint stains on it. Her hair, even longer than it was now, was braided into two plaits that reached past her waist. My Avrille, still holding my hand tightly, walked forward to look at herself.
“Wow …” she said, smiling. “I was so little!”
“And very cute,” I added, smiling as well, though hesitantly since I knew what would soon be coming. Avrille leaned over slightly so she could get a better look at what her younger self was drawing. Even though it was obviously childish, it was easy to make out that it was of two people: a small girl with long, reddish brown hair and a grown man with the same colour hair down to his shoulders. They were holding hands. Under the picture, in painstakingly careful printing, was the caption, “For: Daddy, Love: Avrille.”
After a moment, Avrille said, “I know this picture! My mom still has it framed in her room since I drew it the day …” she trailed off the painful realisation. She looked to me, and I nodded sadly.
“Since you stay here drawing for the entire start of the memory, I think it will be more beneficial to go downstairs and listen to your parents,” I said.
“All right,” Avrille said, taking a last look at the drawing. She gave her younger self one more smile before following me through the open bedroom door and down the stairs. At the bottom of the stairs was the kitchen, where Avrille’s mother Isadora was standing at the stove cooking.
“Mom’s making apple jam,” Avrille said at once. I looked to her in amazement that she would remember something like that.
“It burned when we left the house during the attack,” she explained. “We couldn’t get rid of the smell for months. I still can’t eat it to this day.”
Just then the front door opened silently, and Armand Asphodel crept through. When she saw her father, Avrille placed a hand over her mouth. I could see tears shining in her eyes. She let go of my hand and hurried over to him. When she reached out to touch his shoulder as he hung up his cloak, her hand went through him. I realised with a twinge of guilt that I should have warned her about that. Nevertheless, Avrille seemed to accept it instantly and followed the memory of her father as he snuck up behind her mother. He grabbed her around her waist and kissed her neck, making Isadora shriek in surprise and nearly drop the spoon she had been stirring with.
“Armand!” she gasped, turning around to face him. “What are you doing home so early?”
Avrille instinctually looked to a wall where she knew a clock normally hung in her house. It read that it was only two in the afternoon.
“Cid needed some overtime, so I let him have the rest of my shift,” Armand explained then kissed his wife passionately on the lips. Avrille smiled at the sight. I glanced up to my right to see little Avrille watching the scene below her from the upstairs landing, biting her lip and worrying the hem of her painting smock between tiny fingers. Her adult self, however, still had eyes only for their father.
Separating herself from her husband after a moment, Isadora told him, “Well, I’m busy making jam, so why don’t you go find Avrille and see what she’s up to.”
“In a minute,” her husband replied and kissed her once again.
“Now come on, we have plenty of time for that later tonight. If I don’t keep stirring this, it’ll burn,” Isadora said, rather prophetically. Armand sighed and leaned back against one of the kitchen counters.
“So, how is Avrille today?” he asked, as his wife turned back to the stove.
“Pretty good. Her cold seems to have cleared up. I think she’s in the living room, listening to the radio. She said she had a bad dream last night, though. She woke up right after you left for work, crying hysterically. She didn’t want to talk about it then, but she seems fine now.”
I looked to Avrille as her mother said this. Avrille furrowed her eyebrows as she listened but said nothing.
“She’s probably forgotten all about it,” her father said. “Kids are like that.”
“But it was really strange. All morning she kept pestering me, making sure you were at work. I don’t know where else she thought you’d be …”
Again, I looked aside at Avrille. She was biting her thumbnail but still glued to the conversation. I took a step closer and reached for her hand once more, knowing what was about to happen.
Armand sighed and rubbed at a stain from either ink or potion on the sleeve of his sky-blue Healer’s robes. “Who knows. Maybe I’ll take her for a walk down by the beach. She always enjoys feeding the gulls.” He pushed off from the counter and walked to gaze out one of the windows. As soon as he looked outside, his face blanched white. Four hooded men could be seen stalking silently towards the back door.
“Dora, find Avrille, and go to your mother’s house,” he commanded in a chilling monotone.
“What?” Isadora asked distractedly.
“DO IT! NOW!” he yelled and bolted out the back door with his wand already in his hand. Isadora spun around to see what was the matter. She ran to the window just in time to see her husband shoot a hex at the four intruders, making their hoods fly off into the grass. This momentarily surprised the men, giving Armand a chance to stun one of them. The battle began.
Avrille’s mother tore away from the window, screaming her daughter’s name in sheer terror. Beside me, I saw tears were now flowing freely down Avrille’s face. Still gripping my hand tightly, she pulled me after her as she ran back upstairs. This confused me, for I had assumed she would have either wanted to watch her father’s fight or follow her mother. Instead, she brought us back into her own bedroom where her younger self was standing frozen with fear at the window. Shouts and yelled curses from outside mingled with her mother’s panicked pleading as she searched the downstairs rooms of the house for her daughter.
Releasing my hand, Avrille dropped to her knees in front of her remembered self, flexing her fingers as though she yearned to hold the small girl in front of her but couldn’t bear the sensation of her hands passing straight through. Young Avrille remained transfixed as I had always seen her in this part of the memory, watching every movement her father made and only flinching slightly when one of his spells hit an attacker. Avrille still ignored the combat outside, her eyes locked on her younger face.
Then came the flash of green light, casting the porcelain skin of the two Avrilles with a sickly hue. Avrille’s attention snapped around in time to see her father fall, his eyes full of horror at the sight of his tiny daughter, still in danger in the house. He hit the grass soundlessly.
“DADDY!” Avrille screamed, falling onto her hands and knees. I dropped beside her and clutched her against me as she was wracked with sobbing convulsions. Not even waiting to complete the memory, I hoisted Avrille up onto her feet and took us out of the Pensieve.
We hit the floor of my parlour, and I let us drop to our knees once more. Avrille was hysterical. She held me so tightly that it constricted my breathing and pressed her face against my chest, streaking my robes with her tears. I threaded the fingers of one hand through her hair and rocked her gently, remembering instinctually what my mother had used to do to comfort me. With every sob, Avrille screamed out her pain.
Even while holding all of this heart-wrenching sorrow in my arms, I suddenly noticed something; I was getting wet, and not only from Avrille’s tears. I looked up and was hit in the face with numerous drops of water. For a split second, I feared perhaps there was a leak and the lake was dripping in, but then I realised it was raining. I also noticed that it was only above the two of us; the rest of my sitting room, fortunately, was stone dry. Although we were soon becoming drenched as the magical rain increased in intensity, I continued to cradle Avrille in my arms while allowing myself just the smallest glimmer of hope.
After a few more minutes, Avrille seemed to exhaust herself. She remained pressed against my chest, but soon she finally noticed that the two of us were saturated.
“What …?” Avrille asked quietly, holding up a dripping sleeve.
“I was hoping you could tell me,” I said, unable to keep in a small smile as Avrille’s reddened eyes opened wide in wonder.
“You mean … You’re not doing this?” she asked with disbelief.
She pulled away from me and turned her face up into the rain. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath, the air around us smelling as fresh and fragrant as if we really were caught in a warm, spring shower.
Eyes still closed, Avrille screwed up her face in concentration. Immediately, the rain stopped. She opened her eyes and actually laughed.
“I did that!” she exclaimed.
“I know,” I said simply, incapable of better expressing to how miraculous this all was.
“Do you mind if I dry us off?” I asked, hoping she wouldn’t be offended that I wanted to remove the signs of her first real, spontaneous magic so quickly.
“No, go ahead,” she replied. I took out my wand and blanketed the two of us in a warm Drying Charm. As it took effect, Avrille said suddenly, “It was all my fault.”
This was the same sentence that she, as a child, had said to her mother as soon as they escaped the house that day, though then, of course, in the present tense. I continued to dry us and didn’t speak, wanting Avrille to have a chance to come to terms with the knowledge she had just regained without any interruption.
“It was my fault, but it wasn’t my fault,” she continued. “I’d completely forgotten about the whole thing … but the night before my father was killed, I had a vision about his death. In the dream four men attacked our house, and one of them killed him.” She shook her head at the memory, her hair mostly dry but still damp at the ends. I nodded silently. That had been what I’d guessed when viewing the memory by myself.
“The scene in the vision had taken place during the daytime, so I thought if my father went to work, he’d be safe. He never came home before sunset, you see. The Sanatorium always kept him so busy. But, like you saw, that day he came home early.”
Avrille looked up and met my eyes. Her face was flushed and tearstained, but I had never seen her look more beautiful. Somehow there was a clarity in her eyes that had never been there before. It was though a tiny flame were burning behind each iris. I reached out and brushed away stray strands of hair sticking to her cheeks.
“I blamed myself for his death. I told myself that if I had only told my parents about my visions, then the whole thing could’ve been avoided.” She sighed and leaned against my chest once more. Now that we were completely dry, I put down my wand and ran my fingers over her hair as she kept talking.
“After the attack, my mother and I spent the night at my grandparents’ house. I couldn’t fall asleep that night—No, I wouldn’t allow myself to fall asleep. Not that night, or the night after, or the one after that. My grandmother wanted us to move in with them, but my mother was convinced getting back home to where things were familiar might help me. She was wrong, but she couldn’t have known any better. I didn’t sleep for six days. She finally had to bring in a Healer from my dad’s work to force me unconscious, but before that, I’d sworn to myself that I would never have a vision again. Because I didn’t know how to stop only the visions, I shoved all of my magic into a small place in the back of my mind. I thought that if I became like a normal little Muggle girl, then everything would be ok from then on.”
Avrille wrapped her arms around my neck.
“I need to go back into the memory,” she said quietly against my ear.
“What?!” I exclaimed, taking hold of her shoulders and moving her so I could look her in the eyes. “No, not after reliving such a shock. You need time to recover.”
She gently broke my hold and stood up. Looking up at her, it was like being at the feet of a goddess. Power now flowed from her, and I wouldn’t have been surprised to see sparks of lightning playing around her fingertips.
“I know you want to protect me, but I have to go back in,” she said once more, only this time stern and absolute.
I stood as well. “Then I’m coming with you again,” I said, knowing she wouldn’t be swayed when she was feeling this resolute. She took a full measure of me then nodded once curtly and turned back towards the Pensieve. Though I knew she hadn’t meant it, I had never felt so utterly unneeded by her before. Now that her own, true magic was once more flowing through her veins, Avrille would no longer need me as a physical protector. I hoped, however, she would at least allow me to pretend that she still did, once in a while.
I moved forward so that I was right next to her in front of the Pensieve again. Avrille looked to me and smiled faintly, for a moment breaking the grim determination set in her face. She allowed me to take hold of her hand before we fell through the freezing, swirling grey mist and back into her memory.
We landed at the same moment as before. Young Avrille was drawing at her table, her father not yet having come home. This time, Avrille sat down beside herself, almost in the exact pose as her young reflection and watched the movement of the crayons spreading colour across the paper. I stood a little off to the side, understanding that though she didn’t seem to be actually doing anything, Avrille was finally coming to terms with the memory. When the sound of her father’s voice flowed up the stairs to her ears, young Avrille jumped up and ran over to the doorway to look down into the kitchen. Before, I hadn’t been exactly sure of the reason for the girl’s expression of sheer panic, but now I knew it was because she had been so scared to hear her father home early. Avrille remained sitting still beside the drawing table, watching her past self looking down on her parents downstairs.
Next came the loud bang of Armand throwing open the door as he rushed out into the yard. This noise made young Avrille start then run over to look out the open window. Avrille did not get up, but she scooted over on her knees so that once more, like earlier, she was kneeling beside her memory. Throughout the battle she remained kneeling, watching her younger self with a look of empathy on her face. As the light of the killing curse turned the pale pink walls momentarily green, Avrille raised a hand. I would never have believed what happened next if I had not been there to witness it myself.
The memory froze. Avrille placed her hands on the shoulders of her remembered self, and they did not pass though. I could see her fingertips indenting the fabric of the young girl’s shirt as she turned her so they were face to face. Avrille was still kneeling, so they were almost eye-level with each other.
Avrille reached up and brushed back the girl’s fringe, whispering, “It’s ok.”
Young Avrille started to cry, her tiny body shaking under the strong but gentle hands of her older self.
“I should’ve told,” she sobbed.
Avrille shook her head with a small, consoling smile. “It wouldn’t have mattered.”
“But it’s all my fault!” Young Avrille smeared her tears with the sleeve of her stained shirt. The shirt was much too large for her, perhaps an old one of her father’s, and her small fingers barely could be seen peeking out of it.
“No,” Avrille said forcefully. “Do you see that man out there?” she asked, pointing at the back of her father’s killer, frozen with the scene outside in mid-flight. Young Avrille nodded, still wiping her face with her hand clenched inside the cuff of her sleeve.
“It’s his fault. He did it,” Avrille said.
“HE DID IT!” Young Avrille repeated in an angry yell. “I HATE HIM!”
Avrille ran her hand over the girl’s long braids. “It’s ok to be angry. He did a terrible thing, but he was caught and punished. He will never hurt you again.” Avrille embraced her memory, the girl collapsing against her and wrapping her arms around Avrille’s neck. Avrille kept her hands tight against the girl’s back, pressing her even closer. I watched as Avrille slowly pressed the image of her childhood self back into her own body until only the two of us remained in the bedroom. Avrille then stood and the memory dissolved around us. We were back in my parlour. The Pensieve sat empty. Avrille had reintegrated the memory back into her own mind.
“It’s over,” she said quietly.
“No, it’s just beginning,” I said and took Avrille into my arms, kissing her deeply.
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