God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference - Reinhold Niebuhr.
There was no point in getting sentimental. I knew only too well what had made me decide to dig into the horrors of the night that changed my life forever, into the memory that had been guarded for years by my subconscious. The memory that was often struggling to emerge, to reach the surface… if only in part.
Dwelling on the fact that I had hardly known my parents served no purpose. Neither did the feelings of resentment, of contempt that I had harboured towards my only surviving relatives for as long as I could remember. I had to let go of these emotions; let go of the longing and the hatred. I had to focus only on the task ahead. If I were to have a chance to defeat Voldemort, I had to find out exactly what happened, what my mother did to bring about his first demise.
I remembered the excitement that ran through my veins when I first saw my parents waving at me in the Mirror of Erised; how, when I encountered Dementors, I secretly relished hearing my mother’s voice, though she was screaming inside my head. I knew that what I had to face was going to be emotional, yet I had to be strong, to keep calm; otherwise, this process would just prove too unbearable, and I couldn’t allow myself to fail. I needed to know, not just for my own sake but for everyone’s.
All I could recall from the night in question was a blinding green light; a light so powerful that I had not been able to remember it properly until Cedric was killed and I saw it again. Yet, despite the faintness of my early memory, I could tell that something had been different. The jade-coloured light I had seen as a baby hadn’t been a mere flash; more of an explosion. I had to witness that again. I had to find out what had really gone on.
The idea of using hypnotic age regression had first come to me at Cecilia’s instigation. Cecilia, the acclaimed nonagenarian psychologist and parapsychologist who had known Jung and whose website Hermione had discovered. After we made her acquaintance, we found out, to our astonishment, that she was in fact the lady Tom Riddle Senior had courted before and after he married Merope. A greater coincidence would be hard to imagine; but perhaps it was fate.
She herself had seen horrific things. Once we had become friends, she had confessed to us how she had been a visitor at the mansion, when, unbeknown to Riddle Junior, she had watched the family’s murder from outside an ajar door. On her own account, that was one of the reasons why she had become interested in the paranormal.
She understood the importance of discovering precisely what had happened and was of the opinion that hypnosis could prove an effective method for accomplishing this. Moreover, she believed that it could help me deal with the grief I had been too young to experience at the time but I still felt, and with my anger and resentment. Painful as this may be, I then decided that she might have a point, that there seemed to be more to gain that there was to lose; that it was worth a try.
She had recommended a practitioner in London who was one of the top psychiatrists in the country, someone who was in fact a personal friend of hers. I had given her permission to tell him the basics of my story, of my background. I trusted that the therapist knew something about wizards; otherwise I feared that it might be him who would be in need of counselling afterwards.
Ron, Hermione and Ginny accompanied me to the first session. As I stepped over the entrance of the Edwardian building in Harley Street that hosted the clinic, I squeezed Ginny’s hand. I could tell she felt my apprehension, which was hard to conceal since my hands were sweating. She held me tight and winked, trying to give me strength.
A receptionist showed us to a waiting room that was almost wallpapered with this guy’s qualifications. Soon enough my name was called. I went in alone.
The hypnotherapist appeared to be in his early fifties. His physical appearance was nothing out of the ordinary and his voice was gentle and rather engaging. He asked me to make myself comfortable, to relax. I tried this best I could. He enquired, in a very soft tone, if there was anything specific that I wished to achieve, any particular problem I wanted to overcome. I almost laughed at this. Indeed there was something really huge that I wanted to accomplish, but I just couldn’t go and tell him that my ultimate goal was to defeat the darkest wizard ever. Instead, I told him that my parents had been killed when I was one and that I wanted to know more, which was in essence the truth.
He smiled at me in a manner that gave away the fact that he knew this already. I noticed him glancing at my scar very discreetly.
“I take it that you’re looking for closure,” he said empathically.
“I guess so,” I replied, knowing that I couldn’t make it too obvious that I was only there seeking information. It occurred to me that he might otherwise have concluded that this was not the purpose of this type of therapy.
“Mr Potter, am I right to think that you wish to let go of negative feelings, of the sadness and grief that you still feel?”
“Yes, I think so. You can call me Harry, by the way,” I told him with a smile.
“Very well, Harry,” he continued, “from what you tell me, it seems that age regression would be appropriate in your case, if you are happy to give it a go. Now, there are two ways in which we could do this. You could view experiences from your earlier years as a spectator, so to speak, or you can re-live them. The latter is likely to bring about further benefits, but I must warn you that when you watch the recording of our session, you will see yourself feeling, not merely describing, what happened, once again. It can take a lot of courage to do this. The choice is yours, of course.”
I had to admit that it was a scary prospect, despite the fact that I knew hypnotherapy would not invade my mind. I could never forget how terrible I had felt after my Occlumency lessons with Snape.
He stood patiently, awaiting my decision. I didn’t speak again until I had actually made up my mind.
“Erm, I think I’ll go for option B, if that’s okay.” I didn’t really know what made me choose this. After all, all I wanted was to know… Yet again, at that stage I believed that there must be some merit in fighting my inner demons head on.
“If you are sure,” Dr Riley spoke again, pausing as if looking for me to re-confirm, “that should be fine. I just needed to make you aware that this might be tough."
I simply nodded in agreement. Dr. Riley motioned and I followed him to a separate part of the office. There were two comfortable-looking chairs, and I could see evidence of video equipment.
“Alright, Harry,” he explained, “for age regression therapy to work I need you to be in a state of deep relaxation and deep somnambulism.“
I had to say, the prospect of losing control like that did frightened me a bit. However, everything about my current surroundings was calm and pleasant. I began to feel safe.
The practitioner explained to me that it could take from a few minutes to over half an hour to get me into the necessary trance. I suspected that, given my nervous and impatient temperament, the latter might be the case.
Dr Riley played some very soft and relaxing music. He then asked me to take a deep breath and hold it in, then to let it go and close my eyelids. He said that my eyelids should be so relaxed that they would no longer work. He gently commanded me to go deeper, to relax further… I could hear him perfectly although, yes, I was now extremely calm. He touched my arm, explaining that he was testing that it was now limp, but that I mustn’t help him or this would interfere with the relaxation process.
Having become satisfied that all was in order, Dr Riley directed: “Now send that feeling down across your body, from your head to your toes, as if you meant to go two times deeper.” I really tried to comply.
“Well done, Harry. You’re doing really well. Now let’s relax your mind. Allow your mind to relax as much as your body. In a moment I’m going to have you slowly and softly begin to count starting with the number one. After each number, let your mind double its relaxation. After a little while, the numbers will fade away and disappear. When they are gone, raise your right index finger to let me know.”
I did that. It felt somewhat weird to lose the numbers but it didn’t feel bad. In fact, it all felt really positive.
“Now,” he proceeded, “I am going to count to five. With every number, you will double your relaxation. Once I have finished, I will ask you to board a train that will take you to the first moment when you truly understood the concept of death.”
My breathing was deep but steady. I smiled when he mentioned the train. I had made some sort of automatic mental association with the Hogwarts Express.
“Now, tell me what you see, what you feel, Harry.”
“I’m at school… I have an ambivalent feeling about this place… The lessons take me away from my relatives’ home, which is good. I, umn… I enjoy learning maths and various subjects but , no, … the other kids aren’t always nice to me. Now, the teacher is angry with me.”
The therapist was patient. He let me take a break from my speech. He never rushed me; he never interrupted. “I know,” I said, excited at how the scene was becoming increasingly more vivid, “He’s angry with me because I haven’t done my homework.”
Dr Riley remained quiet, silently inviting me to tell him more. “I tell my teacher that I hadn’t been able copy the instructions from the blackboard. The classroom erupts in laughter… The laugher hurts… Mr Rayburn, the teacher, calls for silence and tells me to see him after class.”
We paused again. “I dread having to see Mr Rayburn after hours… I know no one will believe me... He writes something in the blackboard again and asks me to read it. My heart pounds… I tell him that I can’t, that is too far away. To my surprise, he smiles… He says that I need to tell my parents to take me to an optician… I tell him that my parents are dead and that they aren’t coming back… His expression is odd, as if he is no longer cross with me but he looks slightly sad… He apologizes and tells me that he’d not been at the school long and that he didn’t know. He asks me who I live with… I tell him.
“Alright, Harry, how old are you at this point?” Dr Riley asked.
“Just seven… Now, I think I can see some more,” I continued. “I’m at home, with my aunt, uncle and cousin… My cousin is gloating and telling my aunt that I got into trouble at school. My aunt yells at me before I can explain that I am not in trouble; as I’m trying to tell her that it seems that I need glasses… Then my uncle comes into the room and he tells me, in a menacing tone, that my parents never left them any money for them to buy me glasses, that they were good for nothing, and that I’m a freak like them… They always call me freak. I cry.”
Dr Riley then asked me if I felt ok, if I wanted to take a break. I said that I was fine and ready to continue.
“Alright, Harry, in a moment, but only if you feel thoroughly relaxed and up to it, I’m going to ask you to get back on the train. This time, I’m going to ask you to go back to an earlier time, a time when you are sure you knew that your parents were dead, even if you didn’t fully understand what that meant. Take your time.”
I felt my breathing slow.
“I am younger now,” I started to relate, “I’m about to start school, but haven’t yet… My aunt is watching television. My cousin is lying on the carpet playing with some toys… He is not looking at the screen. He has left an old colouring book lying on the floor. I pick it up when neither of them are looking and take some crayons from a pencil-case. My aunt appears engrossed in her program… It is early afternoon… Then, all of a sudden, she almost jumps out of her seat. I fear that she may be angry with me for taking Dudley’s book, but then I note that she is staring at the screen even more intently. I take a look myself. Umm… some of the people on the TV seem very familiar… I think it might have been one of my aunt’s favourite soap operas… There is a strong noise and two cars collide. There is blood everywhere.”
Dr Riley asked me to relax again. He had noticed that my breathing had become more erratic. “Now I’m beginning to understand something. I drop the colouring book back onto the carpet, just in case she disapproves of me trying to use it… I tug her skirt and asked her if this is what happened to my mum and dad… I can see that she doesn’t welcome the distraction and that she feels irritated. She tells me it was something like that, but then she carries on watching and pays no attention to me… I just want to know more. I wonder if dying hurts. I ask her that… She finally snaps and tells me that she will punish me if I keep asking questions about my parents, that they are dead and that’s it and that I shouldn’t talk about them… She adds that I should be grateful that they had taken me in, that if they hadn’t I would have been left to starve and die myself… I accept that, for the moment, and I speak no further. Still, I do wonder if children can die… Maybe that’s why I didn’t… Perhaps, if I had been a grown up, I would have died instead of them.”
After another hiatus, this time longer, the hypnotherapist prompted me to embark on the next journey and to stop when I knew that I had been permanently separated from my mum and dad.
“It’s cold and dark and a very big man with a long beard is holding me… We are going across the sky on a motorbike…”
Dr Riley cleared his throat and asked: “Harry, do you know who this man is? Do you recognise him?”
“Yes, he is Hagrid. He works as gamekeeper in my school.” I continued, “I’m wrapped in blankets. I’m on a doorstep. Then, it is daylight; someone, a woman, screams… I wonder where Mummy is, where Daddy is, why I’m there. After a short period, I fall asleep.”
“Can you tell me any more about what happens next, in the next few months perhaps, ” he asked patiently.
“Okay, there is another boy. He’s about my age, but he seems a lot bigger… We are both able to walk, but I’m sitting on the floor… He is trying to hit me with a spoon. I move away… He now comes nearer and attempts to stick his finger into my eye. He misses; when I make a gesture with my hand for him to let me be, he punches me quite hard and I begin to wail loudly. This boy is obviously my cousin… The noise I’m making brings my aunt back to the room… My cousin goes to her and grabs her clothing. She cuddles him… Then she moves towards me and yells, urging me to shut up. I continue to sob… She drags me and takes me to another room. She shuts the door. My weeping has no effect at all. No one comes to comfort me… I want someone to hug me… I want my special blanket! My desire to get this is very powerful, almost out of control. The door opens suddenly as if propelled by a really strong force, but nobody is there. I haven’t moved, so I know it’s not me who has opened this door… Now, the blanket flies across the room towards me and lands in my arms. I cuddle into it.”
Dr Riley sighed on hearing this.
I could see a little more still. “Now, my aunt enters the room and shouts again. She looks scared, though… She doesn’t even look at me but tries to take the blanket from my hands. I struggle to keep it, but she is much stronger than I am… Now she begins to destroy it with a pair of scissors that she finds in a drawer… I cry again… I don’t understand why, but the woven fabric has now mended itself. My aunt screams and locks me in the room. I pick up the blanket once again. It makes me feel safe.”
Dr Riley then asked me about the blanket. “It’s soft and pale blue, “ I began to explain. “Wait a minute! It’s the same blanket Hagrid wrapped me in right before I was left on the step!”
At that point, the therapist told me that he was going to bring me back to the present. He started to count again and commanded me to wake up when he stopped.
I began to feel my eyelids again. I blinked. My throat was dry and my tongue felt heavy. He offered me a glass of water and asked me how I felt. I replied that I felt fine but that I didn’t remember anything since having closed my eyes.
He told me that this was normal. He said he had video-recorded the session so that we could go over it together. He commented that the material was certainly interesting but reminded me that the session may instil in me feelings of anger. He said that this was perfectly acceptable and that I should not repress these feelings but try to slowly accept them and let them go. He explained to me briefly how children perceive death at different stages in their development, how they are not aware of it being permanent until they are about seven years old. He then said that many issues had been revealed and that he had thought it was best to leave my parents’ death scene for another session.
I became a little anxious because I really did want to get back to this. He reasoned that it would have been unfair to make me re-live so many sad memories in one go. I then asked him if we could watch the video.
“I think it might be best if we do this another time, when you have had the chance to rest.”
I felt intrigued and impatient. I kept insisting on seeing at least part of it.
He must had realised that not knowing what I might have said under trance was going to bug me until our next meeting, because he turned on the video recorder and told me to sit comfortably. I bit my lower lip lightly.
In retrospect, I found the glasses scene somewhat funny. I giggled involuntarily. This was Uncle Vernon at his best! I shook my head and smiled. Dr Riley didn’t say anything but looked at me as if he was confused. It was obvious that he expected me to be rather incensed.
He stopped the tape and asked: “Harry, what are your feelings on this? Do you feel hurt? Do you feel angry about how your uncle talked about your parents?”
“Yes, I do,” I explained, “but I must say, I have grown used to them speaking ill of my mum and dad. It doesn’t come at all as a surprise.”
The therapist momentarily frowned and asked if I wanted to end the session.
“I’m happy to continue,” I replied “Don’t worry, I feel perfectly alright. I just want to see what else has come out.”
I could tell he was afraid of taxing me too much. He reminded me that he would stop the recording whenever I told him that I had had enough; that it was my decision.
We moved onto the next scene, the one where my aunt was watching television… “Of course”, I muttered, “at the time, I had been convinced that my parents had died in a car accident.” I started to play with my hair.
The hypnotherapist looked straight into my eyes and asked, “Was it a car accident?”
“Harry, look at your body language in the video. You are not so much upset as curious. Why did you think it had been a car crash?”
I shrugged and explained that that was what I had been told; that I only found out more, through other people, when I was eleven.
“Oh, I see. You were lied to. It seems that you were forbidden from asking about your parents, from dealing with your grief. From what we see here, you were not allowed to deal with these events in a healthy way. I can understand why, even so many years on, you are still disturbed by this. It may well be that you haven’t mourned their deaths properly, not to this day, Harry.” He looked seriously concerned as he said this. “Do you think I’m correct in thinking this?”
“Well, I have missed them,” I argued, “I have cried on occasion,” I added feeling a little embarrassed.
“You don’t need to justify yourself. You have done nothing wrong. You don’t always have to be brave. Do you reckon that if you allow your sorrow to surface, it may help you move on?”
I nodded in assent.
Then, I heard myself talking about the flying motorbike. I blushed quite strongly. Dr Riley smiled at me in a comforting way. He knew about magic, most definitely. This was a relief. I did have the feeling, after all, that Cecilia wouldn’t have recommended him to me if she thought that he was likely to think that I was completely insane, or that my supposed subconscious memories were only the product of a vivid imagination.
The blanket episode enraged me somewhat but made me realise that my aunt had been terrified of me and of my magic. For all her meanness, I began to understand her a little.
I thanked Dr Riley and asked if I could take the video recording to copy it.
I was surprised when he hesitated.
“Well, Harry, our code of ethics states that the practitioner should act in the client’s best interest. How can I be sure that you are not going to watch this repetitively and become distraught by it? I have come across quite a few clients who have done just that.”
Whilst it wasn’t essential that I obtain a copy of the recording of this particular session, I was going to need the one from when he regressed me to the time of Voldemort’s attack at Godric’s Hollow. My intention had always been to collect that memory and put it into the Pensieve, so I thought it would be better to create a pattern from the onset.
I smiled broadly and tried to assure him that I would not obsess.
He still seemed undecided but, then, he smiled back and passed the tape to me, reiterating that I should give it all a break and have some rest. We arranged a further appointment for a few weeks later, and I left.
My friends had waited for me really patiently in the waiting room.
“How did it go?” Hermione asked. I told her that it had been fine but that we hadn’t gone through the Godric’s Hollow scene, that it had been left for the next session. Ron patted me in the back. We walked towards the car park in silence and I drove home.
I had, by then, moved out of Grimmauld Place and was living practically in the Muggle world. I had decided a while back that this would be safer and a lot more anonymous. The four of us were now hunting Horcruxes. Not long before, I had purchased an apartment in London; my apartment became our base. As we arrived, I felt rather comforted by the sight of the familiar modern building. I was home.
I sat on the large leather sofa in the living room and stretched out my legs. Ginny sat next to me and put her arms around me. I kissed her very softly. Hermione went into the kitchen and came back with the biggest bag of chocolate frogs ever. Ron followed her in with a bottle of wine and conjured up some glasses. Undoubtedly, they were trying to pamper me. This was really nice but it made me feel a bit awkward. I had always hated people fussing over me.
There was a message on the answer-phone. It was from Cecilia, wishing me luck.
When I headed for the recorder with the tape in my hand, Hermione commented that it didn’t sound like a good idea to watch the video straight away.
I slid in the tape and pressed play. “I’m not a wimp, you know,” I said smiling, as I playfully hit her with a cushion. “Anyway, I have seen it before. I just want to see what you guys make of it.”
Their reactions were, in fact, very much what I expected. I could see Ron’s pulse rising as he heard me tell Dr Riley what my uncle had said. Hermione seemed particularly concerned over the fact that my aunt had forbidden me from talking about my parents. Ginny just kept squeezing my hand.
When it was done, I simply told them not to worry about me. Ginny went into the kitchen and prepared a salad; and we all sat informally around the coffee table to eat. Afterwards, we played a Muggle game called Cluedo that Hermione had bought. Ron beat us all at it quite miserably. They did manage to get my mind off things; they really were the best friends I could ever wish for.
As the days passed, normality was more or less restored and, thankfully, my friends stopped trying to please me all the time. I felt that I was back to being, in their eyes, normal Harry.
However, as the time for my next meeting with the therapist approached, I began to feel more and more restless. I kept on telling myself that I had already endured the experience enough times. The Dementors had taken care of that! Yet, I was apprehensive.
My friends decided to accompany me again. Once more, they waited just outside the therapy room.
Dr Riley opened the conversation. “Harry, how do you feel? Are you relaxed? Comfortable?”
I nodded. I was really intent on going through my parents’ murder scene, although I did not want to make my motives obvious. I just wasn’t sure how, if at all, I should bring the matter up. To my amazement, he seemed to have read my mind.
“I know you are very keen on going back to a specific moment in your life. Is this because you suspect that the root of your problems lies there?” he enquired.
“Erm, you mean, when my parents died?”
“Yes, Harry. Now, bear in mind that this may have a strong impact on you. Also, this scene may not hold all the answers. You were, how old, did you say, fifteen months?”
“Well, when you experience the event, you may not realise that they are dead. You will probably think they are asleep.” He paused at that point as if deep in thought but did not asked me about the cause of death. I guessed he knew he was going to find out soon enough. However, he did ask me if I, myself, had been injured in the incident.
I decided to tell him the truth, though it was hard to explain it to a Muggle, even one who appeared to know Magic existed.
“Yes, sort of… That’s when I got this scar,” I replied flicking my hair so that he could clearly see it.
“I’m a medical doctor, Harry. Do you mind if I take a quick look?”
“Sure, go ahead.”
I knew full well that he was going to find it uncommon. I wasn’t wrong.
“If you don’t mind me asking, what happened? You said that your parents were killed, but not in a car accident. This was certainly not caused by a bullet or a knife either,” Dr Riley said tentatively.
“Okay,” I started, “this is going to sound mad but some of the stuff that has come out in my memories, umm… well… you know it’s a bit different. Alright, let’s come clean: Do you know about my world, about magic?”
He smiled, “Well, our common friend certainly believes in this, yes. I have been trying to keep an open mind. I have been really careful to avoid at all costs planting memories on you, and I’m pretty satisfied that what you have related under hypnosis was real. I just didn’t realise that magic can leave scars.”
“Well, it doesn’t normally. I guess that my relieving the night when my parents were killed will bring about some kind of explanation,” I ventured.
“Harry, I’m becoming more and more wary of what effect re-living this may have on you,” he told me in a worried tone.
“Look, I need this over and done with. I have to come to terms with whatever is that happened!” I concluded. I was determined.
“I have to admit, you have visited some pretty unhappy memories and have reacted well. I can also see that you are finding it hard to move forward without dealing with this. Very well, but please be aware that if I find that you’re becoming overly distressed I will bring you back straight away. No protests afterwards, alright?”
When I woke up from the trance there was sheer chaos around me. I could hear various voices speaking at once in agitated tones. Dr Riley was hovering over me looking like a surgeon who was about to lose a patient on the operating table. Ron, Hermione and Ginny were there in the room too. Everything felt surreal. The last thing I could remember was excruciating pain in my scar.
“What happened?” I asked, trying not to let my tone of voice give away my alarm. My prime objective was retrieving the memory of whatever I had relived and, if the therapist concluded that I was too fazed, he would not allow this.
Dr Riley made a motion with his hand asking my friends to step aside for a moment. Then he directed me to save my breath, to keep calm.
He waited for about a minute and then spoke very quietly. “Harry, you fainted whilst in trance. “I have never even heard of this happening before.”
I tried to interrupt him. I could feel my heart racing. But he said: “don’t speak yet. Breathe first, deeply. There will be time. Relax. I’m not trying to put you under again. I just want you to relax, that’s all. That’s better.”
“How do you feel now?” Dr Riley asked.
“Better, definitely better. But, are you sure that I really did, um… faint?”
“Yes, it was different from being in a trance. You stopped responding to my commands completely. Trust me, I can tell the difference,” he concluded with a gentle grin.
How could this have happened, I wondered. “Now, what did I say, before, well…?”
“Harry, I wonder… Do you remember any of it yourself? Don’t worry if you don’t. In our previous session, you didn’t, which is after all, far more common,” he explained.
“I remember being in a great deal of pain and fighting something off with all my might,” I gulped. “Something really unpleasant, something evil…” My chest felt very tight and I was almost gasping for air as I said this.
“Please, rest now, take it easy,” Dr Riley instructed me. “Have some water.”
I picked up the glass and took a sip. “Please, you must tell me what I said!”
The therapist looked towards my friends and said politely: “Now, if you would excuse us…”
“We only ever came in because we heard you screaming your head off,” Ron blurted out. Hermione tagged the sleeve of his T-shirt disapprovingly, making a gesture for the others to follow her to the waiting room. Ron and Ginny eventually obeyed her.
“So, at what point did I actually scream?”
Dr Riley took a deep breath and started pacing up and down the room. “Well, the session started really well.” He paused for a moment. “You appeared calm at the beginning, yet…” He seemed deep in thought for a few minutes as it trying to work out the sudden change. He finally said: “I don’t think we should go through this now, though. I know you are going to ask me to review the video but I cannot agree. This is not advisable after seeing what happened when you were in trance. I won’t say never – I’d say in a few months, perhaps, we can begin to review it slowly, if you still wanted to. My opinion, as a clinician, is that you need time to recover from whatever had such a dramatic effect on you. The effect was physical, Harry, not just in your mind.”
My jaw dropped. I now had the distinct impression that I had messed up well and truly. I was desperate to learn more. I made eye contact with the practitioner; non-verbally begging him let me see the video. He shook his head for a moment. His expression gave away that he was trying to weigh out what could be more harmful to me: the revelations I had made or my unquenchable curiosity. Finally, after what seemed like a very long minute, I felt that he was giving in.
“Alright, I’ll relate to you what you said.”
“I prompted you to go back to that night using the train imagery again. You said that you were asleep in a crib. Then, you heard a man’s voice shouting. The noise had woken you up. I asked you who he was, if you knew. You thought for a few seconds and said that he was your father. Apparently he was urging someone to take you and run. Your father was in a different part of the house. You did not see what happened there; but, for what you told me, he bellowed that he was going to hold someone off.”
I twitched. Yes, this scene was familiar enough.
“The next thing you saw was a tall, hooded man.”
“Is that when I shouted?
“No, Harry, no. He didn’t particularly frighten you at first. I asked if you had seen this person before this exact point in your life, and your answer was negative. What unsettled you was to hear a woman yelling frantically. You recognised her as your mother. You were quite composed when you described her, by the way.”
I smiled. He asked me how I felt about it all and reiterated that I had gone through enough for one day, that we should end the session. But I said no – once again, I insisted that I needed to know why I had reacted like I had.
I waited. He instructed me to do a short breathing exercise.
He then continued. “Then you said that the man in the hood had a really chilling, high-pitched voice and was laughing. You felt cold and started to shiver. He said to your mother something like: Step aside, you silly girl. She kept shouting Not Harry! Please have mercy, not Harry, kill me instead! You said that this man told her that she didn’t need to die.“
Dr Riley then stopped. He awaited my reaction. I was worried that the trance might have ended and that I would never get to know anything past this point, especially as it was clear that he would not consent to making me relive this situation again. And all because of my stupid screaming and fainting!
“Okay, here we come to a realm I don’t profess to understand. Maybe some of it will make sense to you, I wouldn’t know.”
“Let’s see,” I said, eager to move along.
“Alright, I took notes of the words you uttered because, I must confess, I was completely unfamiliar with them. “
I looked at him feeling nervous but I let him know that I didn’t mind at all.
“Okay, Harry, you said that the man was chanting something. I asked you if you knew what it was. You said that you didn’t but tried to repeat what you heard; something that sounded like: en-lil.” He told me after consulting his note-book. "This man was apparently calling for this en-lil, whoever or whatever that may be. Another word that you spoke several times was: an-an-a-kee. You didn’t understand this either but apparently the man said something about the rightful rulers of Earth and that he was their descendant and then you kept repeating something like: dil-moon." Dr Riley blinked at that point but carried on. “You said that he mentioned that it was Halloween, under the new moon, when the power is strongest.”
I frowned in surprise. “Those words don’t mean anything to me.” I was now getting very excited, but a certain sense of dread took over me all the same. I spoke very quickly, as if we were about to run out of time, as if the memory would altogether dissipate if we didn’t hurry “Did he say anything else? Was he doing anything else, I mean, did he have a wand out or anything?”
“Apparently so, yes,” he sighed. “You said that it was pointing at you, not at your mother, holding the wand in his right hand and a rectangular piece of clay in his left which had markings on it.”
“Yes, and…?” I prompted.
“You became a bit agitated at that point but still weren’t too bad. In hindsight, I should have brought you back then. But anyhow, this man said that the tribute was about to be paid.”
“Yeah, my life, no doubt,” I let it escape.
“He was also chanting something in a language that you didn’t know at all.”
“I see… Also Halloween at the new moon, umn…”
“Then, your mother intervened. I’m only trying to replicate your words here. I still don’t really follow… Well, you described a shaft of bright green light travelling very fast towards you. She pointed her wand at it and then, very quickly, to herself. The light changed its course and, at this very moment, she spoke a word that sounded like, let me check my notes: in-an-a."
I swallowed hard but I was still determined to see this through.
Dr Riley continued. “Immediately after that you cried that the light had hit you, that it was dazzling and wasn’t just a flash; it was everywhere. That was the point where the session – became – unusually intense. I mean, I’ve practised for twenty-six years, and I’ve never – well. You had been on the chair, relating what happened, what I just described. The very next second, you were on the floor, crouching. And you appeared frantic. Frantic as though you were trying to fight something off – your arms were flailing. Quite honestly, it resembled some sort of fit, some sort of seizure. I went down on the floor with you. I commanded you in the strongest of terms to come back to the present. Nothing worked, at first; and then you let out a cry and – that was when you fainted.”
I took a deep breath. I couldn’t take all this in. Not at once, anyway. I couldn’t resist going over my scar with my fingertips, as if searching for something. I cleared my throat and tried to sound casual and to conceal that my heart was still beating fast.
He was standing; I was sitting down. He rested his arm on my shoulder and asked if I had expected any of this. I knew how worried he had been about possible false memories.
“I’m afraid a lot of it makes sense, yes,” I told him with a gloomy smile. “A lot of it doesn’t, but a lot of it does. You haven’t planted fake memories on me, rest assured.”
Once Dr Riley ascertained that I was fit to leave, he advised me to take a break from all this but asked me to get in touch at any time I felt I needed to. He said that I should do some breathing exercises and made a follow-up appointment for a couple of weeks later.
It was evident that my friends were still very worried about me. Ginny hugged me very tightly. Hermione told the others to leave me in peace; but I knew they were all, deep down, anxious to find out what made me react the way I did and to learn whether I had discovered anything of relevance. Too many thoughts and emotions were clouding my mind. To deal with their curiosity, I simply told them that I had been reacting to the moment when I received the scar and that the memory had caused it to hurt again horribly. Ron raised an eyebrow but didn’t say anything. In all truth, I felt completely drained. I let Hermione drive back.
As soon as we reached the apartment they all insisted that I go to bed. Uncharacteristically, I took their advice. My sleep wasn’t particularly peaceful, though. I woke up after a couple of hours wondering about the nature of the magic my mother had invoked. Could it have been dark magic? That would have been completely unlike anything I knew about her. I had written everything down from Dr Riley’s notebook. Those strange syllables were somehow disturbing. What was the word she said? Could it have been a name? A person? A spell? A deity? I had no idea. The session had opened more questions than it had answered. Moreover, I was stricken with the thought that something had tried to enter me and that it had, dear Merlin, succeeded. A theory started forming at the back of my mind. This time, however, I was not brave enough to bring it to the fore.
It was by now the middle of the night and everyone was asleep. I got out of bed very quietly, almost secretly. I paced up and down the spacious living room and then I found myself staring out of the glass wall, into the depths of the Thames. I stared with vacant eyes, almost failing to register the bridge and buildings that, from where I stood, were visible in all their grandeur. I took out my wand and collected my memory of the session with Dr Riley into a glass phial, before I had the chance to forget any of it. I then once again felt extremely tired and felt myself beginning to doze off, so I returned to bed.
When I woke up it was almost midday. Ginny was the first to come into the room. She was carrying a delicious smelling pot of coffee and some freshly baked chocolate croissants. Here they came again with all the pampering.
“Are you okay, mate?” Ron asked me as I went into the kitchen about an hour later, to make some more coffee.
I smiled. “Yes, Ron. Please stop worrying about me. We all knew that reliving that moment was going to be hard,” I said casually.
“You can share it with us, you know,” he replied.
I walked into the living room. Ron followed me. Both Ginny and Hermione were sitting on the sofa. Ginny turned the television off as soon as I came in.
I threw her a knowing smile. “Alright, I’m about to tell you all of it, okay?”
As promised, I recounted what Dr Riley had told me I had said. When I got to the part when Voldemort attacked me, I noticed that Hermione was shaking. She was trying to conceal the fact as best she could by holding her hands against her knees. I realised then that she suspected the same as I did.
Hermione shook her head and frowned deep in thought, at the mention of an-an-a-kee. She also took note of the sounds in-an-a and dil-moon. She said that something rang a bell and wrote down these syllables.
“Well, this sounds like Anun Aki. It sounds sort of Egyptian. Now, this sounds like Inanna. Wait a minute! I know I’ve run across names like that, and I know it was during the summer of fifth year, when I took a Muggle class in world mythology. Right, I think I remember! Inanna was a Sumerian goddess of love and Anun-aki, anunaki? Native American? No. Well, maybe Google has it."
Hermione headed straight for the computer. I remarked that there must have been nothing on these in Hogwarts, A History. We all laughed at this.
“Here! It’s asking if I mean ‘Anunnakki.’ That’s it! Yes. It’s Sumerian, from Sumerian mythology,” she told us excitedly. “Okay, I think we need to get Cecilia onto this. I’m not entirely sure how much to trust Muggle sites when it comes to the magical ramifications of things.”
“So, they are all names for Sumerian gods?” I asked her. So both my mother and Voldemort were invoking Sumerian gods! “Why would my mother – at a time like that – have spoken the names of Sumerian gods?”
Hermione looked into my eyes. It was almost as if, in that moment, she was speaking without words, because I immediately seemed to understand that she seemed to know already: that my mother had been a knowledgeable woman, a brilliant woman, a Head Girl, Slughorn’s prize student. Finally, Hermione spoke aloud: “Harry, she gave her life for you, the ultimate act of love, and she spoke the name of a goddess of love, after all.”
At that point, I didn’t know what to think. I agreed, however, that engaging Cecilia’s help could be a good plan. She had researched myths at great length. She knew about our world. Hermione volunteered to Apparate to Little Hangleton and bring her back with her, if she would agree, which I knew she would. They were back in less than half an hour.
Cecilia looked particularly frail on that occasion, yet her eyes were warm and alert, as always. I took her slowly through the whole session. At the mention of me having passed out, I felt her empathy flow through her wiry hands onto mine. I knew that she felt guilty about having suggested hypnotherapy to me. She asked me to forgive her.
“No, honestly, it was me who wanted to know,” was my sincere reply.
She was particularly interested in the Anunnakki and Enlil.
“Well, Hermione is right as to this being part of the Sumerian mythology,” she started “The people of ancient Mesopotamia believed that humans had been created by gods, who they call the Anunnakki. Both Enlil and Inanna are part of this pantheon. They appear in the Babylonian myth of creation: Enuma Elish.” She stopped for breath and continued, in her friendly yet distinctively posh accent. “Now this is interesting because in the mid nineteenth century, archaeologists discovered seven clay tablets recording this myth and you said that Voldemort was holding something like that in his left hand. I do wonder… but let’s see first.”
I felt a glimmer of hope because the piece of clay I had said Voldemort was holding could very well have been one of these tablets. I had no doubt that he had intended to create a Horcrux that night, with my death. This just made so much sense; the tablet would have been the receptacle. If he believed in these myths enough to invoke them and he considered himself a descendant of these gods, this object would have been important enough to him, especially since it was connected with creation. What he was muttering when he attacked me was probably the Horcrux making spell. I had been convinced that something evil had entered me and I suspected I might now be hosting a piece of his rotten soul, but this seemed more logical; my death was to split his soul and the tablet to receive it. But he had killed my dad already and had failed to murder me. Yes, the tablet had to be the Horcrux and not my body! My spirits dramatically lifted.
“Who are these Enlil and Inanna though?” Ron asked.
“Well, let’s start with Enlil since we are trying to figure out Voldemort’s invocation first. He is the legitimate son of Anu and Ki. By taking over his father’s role and becoming god of the heavens, he separated earth and air. His half brother, Enki, disputed his authority. Minor gods known as Igigi helped the Anunnakki maintain the Universe but, at one point, they refused to continue doing so. Humankind, according to this tradition, was then created in their stead.”
“Do you mean like house-elves?” protested Hermione.
Cecilia smiled. “Well, they were not considered equal to the gods. Humans never are in mythology. Predictably, some deities mated and reproduced with humans, which is of course common in mythology. Enlil didn’t approve of this. To his liking, they also made too much noise and decided to get rid of them and sent them the Great Deluge, the flood that, incidentally, is an event present in most Indo-European religions. Enki then decided to help save mankind. Now, at first, I did wonder why Voldemort had not been more attracted to Enki, since he is in fact the alchemist; but can you not see a pattern here?”
Ginny answered this time. “Yes, he thinks of Muggles as the Anunnakki thought of humans, and of Enki as a kind of blood-traitor.”
“Yeah, that’s why he invoked that one,” Ron agreed.
“I think we could go as far as venture that he does believe in Sumerian cosmology and sees himself and maybe even all pure-bloods as the direct descendents of the Anunnakki,” Cecilia concluded.
“But he is not a pure blood!” I protested.
“No, Harry, but he sees himself as one, because of him being a descendent of Salazar Slytherin. Now,” she continued, “you talked of Dilmun.”
“This was the home of the gods. Enlil was once banished from there to the Underworld but he managed to return after a period of time. If we are correct that he wished to make a Horcrux that night, it would have made sense for him to invoke a deity who had himself successfully returned from the Land of the Dead.”
Even if this could seem a bit off topic, it was something that was worrying me and I just blurted out: “Cecilia, I believe that what my mother did was ancient magic. Dumbledore told me so.”
“Well, from what you have told me, Harry, Voldemort encountered something unexpected. Your mother’s knowledge and her sacrifice.”
Do you think she also believed in these gods and their supremacy?” I asked nervously.
Cecilia then held my hand again and squeezed it hard, expressing how much she felt for me.
“You said she mentioned Inanna,” she stared into my eyes at that point. I never met your parents and cannot tell you for sure what their beliefs were, but this is the myth: Inanna, was a goddess of love, fertility and war. Your mother was all these things, a mother, a lover and a very valiant warrior. I personally think she brought this deity up as an example of someone who could save themselves from death but then she chose for you to live, in her stead.”
I closed my eyes and gulped.
“According to myth, Inanna descended into Irkalla, the Underworld, which was controlled by her sister Ereshkigal. Her sister killed her; however, she was permitted to leave the Underworld and return to life, so long as someone else took her place. By and large, according to many Indo-European myths, for one life to be spared, another one has to take its place. There are some parallels. They both did have a choice. That’s probably where her inspiration came when she quoted her.”
I had been following the story with avid ears. Now, I just broke down and cuddled Cecilia. I couldn’t stop sobbing. She held me tight and brushed my hair with her very slender fingers.
Although the story we had put together appeared to tally reasonably well, something at the back of my mind was telling me that there was more to it than that. I did very much wonder if going into the Pensieve would add any further details. After all, Dumbledore had left it to me in his will. In principle, I understood that the memory could only reveal what I remembered Dr Riley telling me I had said. Yet, I had this niggling feeling that having brought this to the surface under trance might had triggered something in my brain to make me consciously remember more.
As soon I had realised that the tablet that Voldemort had with him was the likely receptacle, I had begun to feel safe. Still, was this just I wanting to believe that? The truth was that the curse had been diverted and that it had rebounded. Instead of hitting me, it had hit my mother and it all had exploded. Things had not worked out according to plan. Moreover, something seemed to have got inside me, hence the struggle and the horrific pain. I needed to know for sure.
I was intent on going into the Pensieve to see if I could find out more. Of course, I didn’t want to worry any of my friends. Also, if my worse fears were to prove real, they would try to prevent me from sacrificing myself. Ginny, however, had become suspicious of my late night wonderings around the flat. One very early morning, just before dawn, she caught me red handed. She told me very determinedly that we would go in together or not at all. She looked about to hex me but kissed me instead. She called Ron and Hermione. She had made it very clear that the matter concerned everyone.
I had been right about the Pensieve allowing us to see the actual scene rather than the session at the clinic.
The truth, at last!
For a moment, time stopped and my heart speeded up. The memory had left no room for imagination. The force that had tried to get into me was certainly a part of Voldemort’s soul. I wanted to vomit, to die there and then! The whole notion disgusted me so much. It wasn’t just the prospect of death. The mere thought of a part of him being lodged inside me revolted me so dreadfully. I felt contaminated beyond words. I so very much wished that my mother hadn’t saved me at all!
As we came back, I collapsed on the floor momentarily. Ginny, Hermione and Ron looked at one another with a kind of terror I had never seen before. My eyes had dried out; the tears wouldn’t come.
Their own fear was palpable. I could breathe it. After a few minutes, I managed to stand up. They all hugged me and hugged each other.
“Why me?” This was not a fate that anyone deserved or could endure. Suddenly, I felt uncontrollable rage. A bright light hit the Penseive and burst it into pieces. I hadn’t even taken my wand out of my pocket.
Ron and Hermione tried to argue that this might not be conclusive. Wishful thinking, I called it. I had seen, unmistakably, the vaporous shape that lodged itself into me as a baby. This was now undeniable.
Ron broke the silence by saying that I was still the same to them; that nothing would ever come between us.
The months went by. I went through the normal stages that someone would go through when diagnosed with a fatal disease: denial, anger, depression… absolutely everything. My friends went through this too. On the odd occasion, I really tried to enjoy what little time I had left.
Giving myself up would be useless until all the Horcruxes were destroyed. I still sought those fiercely. However, I noticed that my friends were no longer so keen.
I kept telling myself that I would see my parents soon enough. But leaving my friends behind was not something that I could really handle. Especially Ginny. The day we found out, she gave herself to me with a passion that I just wasn’t strong enough to resist. I knew it was wrong because I would only make her more miserable in the long run, but everything about her; her caresses, her breasts, her hair, were just so comforting. I fear I did wrong her, even if she said, time and time again, that she wanted it that way.
The hardest bit happened when I inadvertently overheard Ginny and Hermione. Ginny was so upset she was hard to understand. I could barely make out that she was telling Hermione about a fairy-tale in which a man loses his lover and brings her back from the death, but that she is so miserable that her life is not worth living. She said that for my sake, she had to let me go, that I could not continue living in the knowledge that, whilst I existed, he would never be mortal, allowing others to be murdered and tortured. Those were my precise thoughts.
I put my affairs in order and ensured that everyone was well provided for. I never discussed that with any of them. On a positive note, I had now enough ammunition to vanquish the Dark Lord forever… I knew now more about his fears and beliefs than he was ever likely to imagine.
I was his last Horcrux, the one he never meant to make.
I made love to Ginny for what I gathered it would be the last time and prayed that my friends would forgive me for what I was about to do. I slipped into Ron and Hermione’s room very quietly, thinking I ought to say good-bye. They were both fast asleep, and I changed my mind. I knew they would try to stop me. Maybe, subconsciously, I wanted them to. I found myself weeping. Walking into a certain death was harder than I had ever expected, but it would all be worth it if I achieved my goal. After all, as Dumbledore had said, there are worse things than death.
And now, Lord Voldemort, I’m ready to face you, with all the consequences!
AN: My absolute gratitute to Bella_Portia for her awesome work in this story, without whom this could have been a complete disaster. Also, to chiQO9 and Labby, my resident psychologists, and to Aurora Dawn for the grammar help and encouragement. I also thank NevillesSoulmate for making a wonderful banner for me.
Lily’s quotation is from Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.
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