Chapter 1 : One
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The sunlight was beginning to fade, casting odd shadows on the single occupant of the small bedroom. Darkness was taking its place, slowly caressing the walls and floor with its think, black fingers. Albus could still hear the echo of shouts coming from down the stairs. The faint yells, as quiet as they were, ripped and tore at his insides. The volume was not the problem. It was the icy venom engulfing every shouted word that made him hurt inside. Parents were not supposed to say those things to each other.
Albus sighed, sitting on his bed, hugging his knees tighter to his chest. Little boys hugged themselves. He was, by no means, a little boy, and yet he did it anyway. "Stop," he mumbled to himself, squeezing his eyes shut. "Stop it."
He rocked back and forth, gripping his knees, his eyes tightly shut. For a moment, he willed the situation to be different. Picturing it in his mind, he imagined the whole family gathered around the dining table, playing a dumb Muggle board game. There was laughter, all faces merry and bright. Harry rolled the dice, saw the number, and groaned. They laughed. Ginny laughed, Albus laughed, James laughed, Lily laughed. Lily. She laughed with everyone else. Because she was part of the family, and she was laughing with them.
But when Albus opened his eyes, he still gazed upon the chipping wall of his bedroom, the cheerful memory slipping away. He tried to keep his grasp on it, clinging to it with all the strength he had. But it continued to fade, pulling back from him and slipping from his mind. And Lily: had her laugh been that high? Her eyes: were they green or blue? Just as the cheerful memory had, her image began to slip away just as fast.
He hated how the shine of her hair and the tinkle of her laugh were falling from his mind. He didn't want to forget her, any bit of her. Just the fact that he couldn't remember the color of her eyes was killing him on the inside.
Albus lifted his head from his knees. James stood in his doorway, a concerned expression replacing his usual sarcastic smirk. "Are you OK?" he asked quietly.
"No," Albus mumbled miserably. "I'm forgetting her, James."
His brother took a step forward, his bare feet making soft slapping noises on the wood below them. "Who...?"
"You promised me I wouldn't forget her, and I am. I'm forgetting my own sister."
Albus looked into his brother's face. "What color were her eyes?" he asked suddenly.
Albus swallowed, turning his attention to the wind outside the window. It wrenched at the shutters, whipped the flowers in circles and sent waves through the grass. It was chaotic, unbalanced, just like Albus' frantic, forgetting mind.
"I'm forgetting her," the brother swallowed. He allowed his neck to sink and his head to fall. "And so are you." This comment was muffled by Albus' knees, but James still heard it. Though it was quiet, it still hit just as hard, as if someone had taken his face in their hands and yelled it to him, screamed it to him.
James exhaled, looking out the window. "I... don't..." He sighed. "Don't..." He didn't know what to say. What could he say, for that matter, to a brother who was grieving for his own sister, forgetting her, even?
"You told me I wouldn't forget her."
James sank down next to his younger brother. Slowly, hesitantly, he wrapped his arm around his shoulders. "You won't." They both knew this wasn't true. It was simply a feeble attempt by James to comfort his sibling. But something as thin and false as what he just said could never offer warm arms of comfort to a miserable brother.
"But I just did!" Albus' reply was bitter. He didn't want to sit there and take false comfort. He didn't feel like listening to something that both siblings knew was not true. His voice was rising beyond its usual level, his words coated with stinging hostility. "I forgot her. I forgot her eyes. I forgot her eyes, and her laugh, and her hair..." He trailed off, peering into his brother's face, imploring him to understand. "I don't remember them anymore."
James looked down at his lap, swallowing. "Al..."
"I don't remember them anymore, and all you can do is sit there and tell me that everything's going to be OK!" He shrugged James' arm off his shoulders, rising from his bed. "And it's not, James. Nothing is ever going to be OK again!"
And then he was crying. The lip tremble had grown into something much bigger, something that he couldn't even begin to control. There was a gaping, obvious hole in his heart where his sister had been, and the pain he felt from it was clearly showing on his face. The tears made red tracks down his cheeks; his breaths came quickly and ragged. And his sobs, wet and rapid, were far louder than any screaming coming from downstairs, drowning out his parents' shouting match. "It's not OK!" he repeated through his teeth, quieter now but just as bitter. His heart hammered against his ribs as he uttered, "It's not OK that I'm forgetting my own sister."
Albus watched as his brother caught one of his own tears in his hand, quickly brushing it away. It was rare to see James cry. It made Albus feel uncomfortable. The older family was supposed to be the pillar of strength, the comforting hand to hold. They weren't supposed to break down, especially in front of their younger siblings. Then again, Albus figured, if the tiniest brick is removed from the tower, the top will crumble too. "I'm sorry," Albus cried softly, sinking slowly next to his brother. "I'm... I'm sorry. Don't cry, James. I'm... don't cry."
"It's fine," James lied, just as quietly as his brother. "I'm... it's fine." He was defending himself, trying to find a reason to break down in front of Albus. Lying seemed like the best way to hide, like putting on a fragile, smiling mask while he was weeping behind it. And yet, though he told false feelings, they both knew that he wasn't, in fact, fine. He wiped a final tear from his eye with a trembling, shaking hand.
Albus' cries were quieting, though his outburst was still fresh in both of the brothers' minds. "I'm sorry," he said again. He meant it.
"You know what I think?" James' voice was suddenly a bit more confident, and he turned to face his brother.
"I think her eye color doesn't matter."
"But I don't-"
James held up his hand. Hesitantly, he asked, "Do you remember her love?" It came out as a hoarse whisper, but Albus could still hear him.
The youngest looked down at his lap. "Yes."
"Then... Then that's all that matters, Al. The size of her feet or the length of her hair was not what defined her."
Albus sighed. "I guess you're right."
James allowed a comforting smile to creep across his lips, replacing his arm on Albus' shoulders. Pausing, he added, "We all miss her, Al."
"But just because she's gone doesn't mean that you'll ever, ever forget her love."
Albus felt the weight shift on the bed as his brother rose. "Thanks, James," he called after him, and smiled as he heard his brother chuckle weakly in reply. Turning, he looked out the window, remembering for a moment how much Lily had liked watching the trees sway in the wind. They would sit on the back porch together some afternoons, and do nothing but watch the leaves shudder against great gusts of air. "Green," he mumbled softly to himself. "Her eyes were green."