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Chapter 1 : Insanity
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There are two brown eyes today.
They watch me.
I give them the paper, the strange paper that smells sweet, the paper I find pressed in my hand.
Perhaps the paper is important.
But the two brown eyes, they watch and watch.
They have come here before, these brown eyes. Not as often as the other eyes. But they do come.
The brown eyes are softer, sadder, than the other eyes.
The other eyes glance away, gone as soon as they come. Sometimes they are blue. Sometimes they are green. Sometimes they are brown. But they never hold as long as these brown eyes, these brown eyes that came before and come today.
There is no more paper in my hand.
The brown eyes flicker away.
There are blue eyes next to me. They are here always.
They are not soft. They are not hard. They are just there.
Always, I thought. We’ll be with our baby always. I picked him up, humming in delight as his eyes opened and looked at me. His beautiful brown eyes.
The war was over. It was done.
No more bloodshed, no more secrecy, no more defiance. Now it was peace, and peace was lovely.
My wonderful blue-eyed Frank was away, away but not for long. This time, I was sure he’d come back, and oh, it was the loveliest feeling. Sureness. It was a solid word, a word made of brick instead of the straw-and-sticks we were so used to.
I didn’t want my baby to live in a world made of straw and sticks.
My son stretched in my arms as I cooed out his name. “Hello, my precious boy. Hello, my Neville.”
Hazel eyes that speak this time. The noises they make are strange. Incomprehensible.
“It’s time to go.”
The brown eyes blink. And then the brown eyes, they are no longer there.
Lost in my forever day.
The blue eyes next to me stare and stare. For ever and ever and ever.
The blue eyes blink.
Green eyes come soon, warm green eyes. They wrinkle around the edges.
“Alice, darling, your little boy is so beautiful. Remember him? Neville?”
Something is pressed into my hand.
“I bought some gum for you. I know how you like your gum.”
I cannot understand the sounds that vibrate over me.
The thing in my hand has sweet smelling paper.
“Wouldn’t you like to try it, dearie?” The sweet smelling paper is now separate from an object, pink soft sweet smelling object.
It tastes familiar.
I cannot remember.
I couldn’t remember the last time I smiled so much. It seemed like we had been hiding for an entire lifetime. More. A generation of lifetimes.
It wouldn’t be apt to say there was a darker side to the celebrations; it was more that the celebrations were in spite of the darker side.
The war left unremovable scars in the hearts of all the surviving members of the Order. I was haunted by the Prewett brothers and Cadaroc Dearborn and Marlene McKinnon and the Potters, oh, the faces of Lily and James leered at me with staring eyes every night. I could only imagine what nightmares were branded in Frank’s mind when he woke up yelling.
There were times when I would awaken to screams. I would panic and only then realize that they were mine.
But I knew that I would be okay. If not for myself, for my baby. For my Neville.
His brown eyes would never be haunted like mine.
The brown eyes, they are haunted.
They are familiar.
I cannot remember...
Cannot remember over the noise. There is so much. I want to sit down.
I am standing, so far up high. So far away.
I have a gift for the brown eyes. A gift...
The paper is gone from my hand, the sweet smelling paper.
The noises they all make, I cannot comprehend. Cannot. Cannot remember...
I am sitting. I am down.
The brown eyes vanish. In a whirlwind. A void.
I remember. I remember pain.
Intense. Fire. It is pain. I feel it. It burns. It burns all of me.
A scream. It is mine.
It pierces. The scream shatters into a million pieces and rains down on my head. It does not end.
And then pairs of warm eyes. Not warm enough. Lukewarm eyes.
“We need to sedate her. Do you know what happened”
“Her son came to visit, d’you think that’s what set ‘er off?”
Sharpness in my arm. And then... nothing...
“Nothing, dear. Nothing can hurt us now,” Frank assured me. “We have no more need for a Secret-Keeper.”
I swallowed. I wanted to believe him. I wanted it so badly. I almost could. “But what about the Death Eaters? They’re not gone,” I pointed out.
“Without a leader, they won’t do anything.” Frank smiled. “Trust me on this one.”
We were sitting on the front porch, me in the porch swing, him in a lawn chair. He rested comfortably, his legs stretched out, his head leaning back, his eyes full of sky. The picture of safety.
“I trust you,” I said quietly.
Neville’s eyes were shut tight. He slept peacefully.
I wished I could slip into his dream and scatter love like birdseed. I wish I could do the same to the hearts of all people.
Paying no mind to my wishes, my baby dreamt on.
I am dreaming.
I know it because my breath spreads like a flood with every exhale. Because my gaze spans the world.
It is too colorful, this dream. The too-many-colors twirl in a macabre dance of bright hues.
In it there are eyes. They are eyes but at the same time they are more than eyes.
There is skin around the eyes, there are features.
These are not simply eyes, but a face.
I know I am dreaming. Faces didn’t exist anymore.
This face speaks to me, speaks to me in a familiar voice. It is a face and yet it is more than a face. It is a person.
“Hello, Mum,” the person whispers. I understand.
It is a person and yet it is more than a person... it is Neville.
My mouth opens to tell my son that I love him...
The world tilts. Then it shivers. Then it balances itself.
There was something important, something important to remember. A dream. It was in my dream.
I cannot remember.
Green eyes, the ones with the wrinkles. I have seen them before.
“Sweetie, you okay? We were worried there for a while.”
The blue eyes next to me stare on into the endless forever day.
Not the eyes I’m looking for.
Brown eyes stared at me from the mirror. I blinked, but of course I couldn’t see the blink in the mirror, as my eyes were closed. I looked away and tried to stop psyching myself out.
We had sent Neville to his gran’s today; Frank thought I deserved a break. I had taken one look at the alarmingly large bags under my eyes and agreed with him immediately.
It was unusually dark as I made my way into the kitchen. I lit a couple of lamps with my wand and set out some dishes. Spaghetti flew out of the cabinet with a wave of my wand and landed in a pot of water Tonight was pasta night.
“Looks delicious,” said a voice from the doorway. I started enthusiastically enough to fling my stirring spoon across the kitchen. “Spaghetti tonight, honey?”
It was Frank. I relaxed.
I had no idea why I had been so jumpy lately. I trod slowly across the kitchen to pick up the spoon and gave Frank a hug. “It’ll be ready in a few minutes,” I told him, “go change into some comfy clothes.” Frank nodded and padded up the steps.
I looked out the window. The stars were completely covered by clouds, and I could not see a moon anywhere.
For some reason, I shivered. I supposed it was just someone walking over my grave.
Grave. Grave, hazel, sharp. The eyes are.
I cannot remember. All I can remember is not remembering.
Green eyes and wrinkles, they come.
“Augusta! What a pleasant surprise. You’re here to see Frank and Alice, I suppose?”
Hazel eyes flicker down.
“You know, lately, they’ve been improving. Alice even reached for a pen and drew something on a gum wrapper the other day, you know? She wouldn’t let me see it. I think she’s going to give it to her son. It’s amazing how she always gives things to him, you’d almost think she understands who we are...”
I do not understand their sounds.
Hazel eyes, they come closer.
They are grave.
They are sharp.
They are more.
They sparkle like diamonds. The fruit of sorrow.
Wet falls, falls, falls, down onto me.
I wish to tell them, to tell them it is okay. These eyes, they need comfort.
The eyes close.
Frank’s eyes closed for a moment as he smelled the spaghetti sauce.
I nudged him. “Your wife can cook,” I told him genially.
He engulfed me in a one-armed hug. “I knew there was a reason I married you.” I smiled at his bad joke.
I rubbed my arms and wished Neville were here. I never felt comfortable unless I could keep an eye on him. He was the tiniest thing, but he already had my cheeks and Frank’s jaw. And my eyes. He had my eyes.
I shivered again, though it wasn’t cold. “Hey, Frank?”
“Did you hear that noise? Out by the porch?” I asked softly. Frank shook his head.
I stayed quiet for a moment, listening.
“I think there’s something there,” I told him.
Frank shrugged. “I didn’t hear anything.” He picked up his wand anyway. “Probably a niffler--you know, I saw one sniffing around the deck the other day?” He wagged his head reproachfully and headed out to the porch.
I moved over to the couch and sat down heavily, waiting for Frank to get back and confirm that I was simply having ridiculous fears. I was having them all the time now--I would think I heard a noise in the basement and have Frank go investigate, but it was always nothing. Leftover fears from the War. My scars hadn’t healed. I doubted they ever would.
Taking down a picture from the mantelpiece, I looked at it. The people in the old Order stared up at me from the photograph. Lily and James Potter smiled and waved. The traitor Sirius Black grinned from the page. The poor late Peter Pettigrew stood next to Remus Lupin, looking rather nervous The Prewett brothers elbowed each other cheerfully.
All--besides Sirius--had lived for peace. Some had died for peace. It was our job, and hard as it was, we’d had to do it.
I looked up from the photograph. Where was Frank?
“Frank?” I called from the couch. “Got that niffler?”
I was beginning to get nervous. I stood up.
A throaty chuckle sounded from behind me.
I whirled around and looked right into the black, black eyes of Bellatrix Lestrange.
“... by Bellatrix Lestrange and some other Death Eaters, that’s what happened. She’s already certified as insane.”
Familiar green eyes with wrinkles. They go towards the blue eyes.
Cool blue eyes. They are frosty, precise.
“We still have to test her.”
“It’s a waste of time and Galleons!”
“I’m sorry, ma'am, we still have to test her.”
They sound angry.
I am pulled to my feet. The ground is a million miles away and tilting fast.
I move for balance. We walk, me and the cool blue eyes. We walk for ever and ever and then some.
And then we stop. We sit. The ground is closer, but still too far away.
The ceiling is forever up. Forever up on my forever day.
The cool blue eyes look away. They make noise, that noise that all of them make, but I do not understand. I never do.
There are bright colors, but they do not dance.
I don’t understand...
I didn’t understand how Bellatrix and the other Death Eaters got me bound before I could even pull out a wand. All I could think was, Not now. Not now. We were supposed to have peace.
I hadn’t paid attention to the fact that most of the former Death Eaters hadn’t been caught. I didn’t think there was any point in them hurting us, so I didn’t worry all that much.
I saw how stupid I had been.
They didn't believe me when I told them that You-Know-Who was dead and gone. They thought he was too powerful to die. They couldn't grasp it--that he was undone by his own hand.
“Tell me the truth!” Bellatrix shrieked. In the time after You-Know-Who’s death, her eyes had acquired a gleam of madness to them, her hair had become a wild tangle. She looked insane. She was insane.
I held my chin high.
Her voice became soft and low, a change that frightened me more than her yelling. “Do you know what we do to the dirty little people who lie, Alice?”
I only heard the shout, and then I was engulfed.
The pain. It was fire. It burned my from my inside out, it consumed me, it was me, I was the pain, I felt it like a million bonfires... My body would shatter like fragile glass soon, I knew, the pain was never-ending...
It doesn’t end, my forever day. It goes on and on and on.
Like the blue eyes that stare next to me. On and on and on.
Those brown eyes, they came today.
They watch and watch.
They are soft, sad, these brown eyes.
I give them the sweet-smelling paper I found in my hand.
It is a gift. It is the gift.
This gift, I had it since the dream. It is written on. It is important. It it my remembering.
The brown eyes glance down at the paper.
They look back up. Then back down.
And whisper, “I love you too, Mum.”
And this one thing, I understand.
Neville pocketed the gum wrapper, not quite believing his eyes.
His mother lay back on his bed and resumed her vacant-eyed study of the ceiling.
When he got home, he took out the gum wrapper, unfolding it carefully. Drawn clumsily on the gum wrapper, in pen, was a heart.
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