They always tell me to start with what I know – go through it all in my head and scan through my mind for anything I might have remembered.
I don’t know much.
I know that I have amnesia.
I know that I am in a hospital, but sometimes I forget what it is.
I know that they can’t find my parents, and that they are being searched for.
I know what I can see in the reflection – I have large brown eyes and long brown-blonde hair, and I’m quite tall.
I don’t know my own name.
They think my name is Beth, because when they found me I had a scrap of what looked like parchment in my pocket. It has words written on it; words that make no sense but that are addressed to “Beth” and from someone called “Colin.”
They ask me what the words mean – words like “Quidditch,” which is capitalised, and “snitch,” which is not. I think it is a code, and they nod absently before leaving the room to check on another patient.
I don’t recognise anything. They hold up the parchment in front of my nose, and ask if I remember receiving it, or whether I was giving it to a friend. I say no, every time, but it doesn’t stop them asking. They get frustrated when I ask, time and time again, if they have found any more information about where my parents are; about who I am.
I don’t know how old I am.
From my looks and the tests they think that I am between eleven and fourteen, and they have tried to narrow it down more than this but it’s difficult and they can never be sure.
“We think you’re closer to fourteen!”
And what if I wasn’t? What if I was ten and a half – I would have lost almost four years of my life, and I would never know.
I don’t know what my life was like, and what could have caused my memories to disappear so suddenly.
Was I happy? Was the amnesia caused by a mental trauma, or by a physical accident? And where were my parents?
They say that they can’t answer any questions, and they bring in the couple who found me. He is nervous, and taps his foot irregularly on the hard floor. It irritates me, but I say nothing; he may be able to tell me something the doctors cannot. The woman smiles a lot, and she is clutching her bag as if it will keep her from harm. The bag is tiny, and this thought makes me laugh; prompting a confused look from them both.
I clear my throat, and hope that they will be able to tell me anything that will help.
“They say you found me and brought me here,” I begin with a statement, and hope that this will set them off and I won’t have to talk any more. That doesn’t happen – instead, the woman looks at her husband, and he nods nervously. No one speaks, and I decide that I will have to ask them directly to get any answers.
“Where was I?”
The man nods again, and then shifts slightly, as if readying himself for something terrible.
“We found you...you were unconscious in an alley...we were in the pub...” his words didn’t connect with one another and I put a hand to my forehead, wondering if it was him speaking strangely, or if I just wasn’t connecting one word to another. The woman answered this for me, leaning forward and placing a hand on his arm, and speaking his name quietly.
He stops talking immediately, and she starts explaining for me.
“We had gone out to the pub for a meal with our friends. On the way out, at about eleven, I caught sight of a body – your body – in the alleyway opposite the door, and I pointed you out to my friends, thinking you were either homeless or very drunk, and probably the latter.
Of course - whether it was your own fault or not - we didn’t want you to come to any harm, so we decided to check on you to see if you were okay. You were unconscious, and we believed this was because of the alcohol -”
“I’m sorry for that assumption,” her husband cuts her off, and my eyes flick to him. “I wouldn’t normally have made it, only you were directly opposite the pub, and...can you understand what that looks like? A girl in a heap on the floor...like she had been out drinking with her friends – and they had just left her...not that we wished that upon you – of course...”
He trails off, and the woman gently repeats his name.
“John, let me explain. God knows I don’t want her to think badly of us either, but we did all that we could, and the least we can do now is answer her questions...alright?”
He nods, and the woman turns to me once again, shaking her head apologetically. I smile tightly, and she continues speaking.
“Where was I? Yes, we thought you had passed out with too much alcohol. We tried to wake you up, but it didn’t seem to be working and we didn’t want to just leave you there, and so we called for an ambulance. None of us were in the right state to be driving – we would have just walked home, as we were in our home village.
This hospital was close, so the ambulance got there pretty quickly. We told the paramedics that we thought you were drunk, and they performed some tests on you out in the alley. When they found that you weren’t, and that you were unconscious still, they put you in the back of the ambulance immediately and took you here. I think they were afraid you had concussion. None of us were related to you, or knew you, for that matter, and so we weren’t allowed in the van too. We saw your face on the local news the other day, asking if your parents had been seen, and so we came to see you.”
This seems to be the end of her explanation, and I nod slowly.
“Did you see anyone near me?”
“I’m sorry dear, we didn’t,” I expect this answer, and so am not disappointed when it is given. “We weren’t really thinking at the time, and when we found out that you weren’t drunk, there was no one around. Of course, that gave them plenty of time to disappear, but I’m certain I didn’t see anyone.”
I search my mind, thinking of any other questions they might be able to answer. There aren’t many – if they didn’t recognise me before then they wouldn’t know who I was, and who my parents were either.
“Thank you for coming,” I say, finally. “It was kind of you. Could I ask one favour?”
“Certainly,” the woman replies, and it occurs to me that I don’t know her name. I ask this first, and she looks startled.
“I’m so sorry – that should have been the first thing I said! I’m Amanda Bradshaw, and this is John, my husband.”
“They think I’m called Beth,” I say, as a way of a reply. “I was wondering – is there any way you could tell me if there is any news about me or my parents? If it’s on the news then you would probably find out before me...”
I know it is a long shot as I say it, and so I am surprised when they seem eager to do it.
“Definitely. I know it isn’t our fault, but I feel like we are partially to blame for all of this,” she admits, and this shocks me. She sees the look on my face, and continues before I can say anything. “I know, there was nothing else we could do, but I do feel that if only we had left the pub a bit earlier-”
“You wouldn’t have been able to do anything then either,” I cut her off. “Thank you very much for agreeing though – I really appreciate it.”
They brush it off again, and stand up ready to go.
“Goodbye,” I say.
The man nods, and the woman adds – “Hopefully we’ll see you soon,” before they both leave me in silence.
I wonder about the words that they spoke to me – words as foreign as the ones on the parchment, but that they knew of. Words like “ambulance,” and “paramedic” – words that this time I recognised, but still didn’t know the meanings. These worry me more than the others, as I feel like I should know them. I can piece together the sentences without doing so, but I wish I didn’t have to.
I shift my weight on the bed, and wonder how long I have been looking at these walls, at these yellowing curtains and the white ceiling. It feels like a long time, but it always does when you are bored. I guess at a few days, perhaps three or four. I do not have a private room, because my injuries are not severe enough – instead, I share a ward with five other people who also have head injuries.
I enjoy watching them when the curtains allow me to, and wondering what brought them here. I overhear words from the nurses, and shouts and laughter when they have visitors.
“Fell off a wall,”
“Got into a fight,”
“Was in a car crash,”
These are a few that are passed around, I feel out of place. It is a strange thing to say, feeling out of place in a hospital, when I am a patient and am looked after just as much as anyone else – but I feel as though I am taking a place in here that could be used for someone else; I am having clean sheets every day and a warm meal three times – and I don’t have a proper injury.
I know it is only a matter of time before I am taken somewhere, and the words “social services,” and “foster care,” have been thrown around by the nurses in my direction. These are just more that I don’t understand, and I begin to wonder if the ‘accident’ has knocked some words and their meanings out of my mind, as well as all of my memories.
I feel that the nurses don’t want me here. They want to be able to look after people, and although it is a relief for the doctors that I didn’t have concussion, and that I don’t need many examinations and check-ups; the nurses greatly enjoy taking care of people. They are lovely to the others in the ward, taking care of every need, and they would prefer me to be like this too – instead of saying “I’m fine,” and “I don’t need anything, thank you.”
I am still checked by a doctor every so often, but most of the time they just leave me to my thoughts. As I have no memories, these are just wondering what I need to remember, and where on earth my parents are.
Just the next day, the door to the ward is opened, and Amanda and John are showed in by a nurse. They sit down next to my bed; Amanda closest; and I sit up, eager to hear whatever they have to say.
“Do you have any news?” I ask expectantly.
“I’m afraid not,” Amanda begins, and adds as she watches my face fall, “but there is something we found out yesterday.”
I nod, wondering what they could have found if it wasn’t directly “news” about my parents or me – this was what I had asked them to tell me about, and so I don’t get my hopes up for anything particularly useful or interesting.
“Well, as we were leaving the hospital yesterday, we came across an owl perched on our car. We knew it was extremely unusual to see owls in the middle of the day, but we didn’t want to touch it in case it gave us some kind of disease, so we got into the car and prepared to drive away, assuming that once the engine started it would fly away.
It didn’t, however, and only when we began to drive did it actually fly off the bonnet. Even then, it didn’t go far, and followed our car all the way back to our house. We didn’t notice it until we reached the drive, where it settled on the bonnet once again after we had stopped. Of course, we were very confused, and so took a closer look at the bird, wondering why it was so keen to follow us. John’s very good with animals, and said it was a...what type of owl did you say it was, dear?”
“A tawny owl,” he states, softly and carefully – his eyes flicking up to meet mine briefly before dropping back down to his lap.
“A tawny owl,” she repeats, before continuing. “And this time, when we were looking at it, it stuck out its leg, which had a letter attached to it! Now, I’ve heard of bird post, but I thought that was done with pigeons, and I never thought it could actually happen, so you can imagine my surprise at seeing it! I took it off its leg carefully, and was even more surprised to learn that it was addressed to someone called ‘Beth.’ I didn’t want to open it, in case it was something private, but I brought it here.”
She holds up a yellowing envelope with the words ‘Beth,’ but doesn’t hand it to me right away. Instead, she takes in the look of excitement on my face, and speaks again slowly.
“I just – I don’t want you to get your hopes up, dear,” I smile unconsciously at this pet name, “because it may be for someone different – I mean, if you don’t know if your name even is Beth, then how can we know who this is really for? I have no idea what it contains either... it could be something really nasty. Just – don’t put all your eggs in this basket.”
She finishes speaking, and hands me the envelope. I take it, and wonder if I should open it in front of them or not. Amanda seems to understand this, and asks me.
“Would you prefer it if we went to the café while you read it? We’ll be back in ten minutes – I think I need a coffee anyway.”
They leave, and I am free to read the letter. I open the envelope carefully so I don’t rip it, and pull out a piece of what looks like parchment. My eyes widen, and I pull out a scrap from its place on the bedside table, comparing it to the one I had just received. It is the same kind of parchment, although it has different handwriting, and I read the new piece eagerly, certain that it will contain some clue as to what I am doing here and who I am.
How did you find the World Cup? It was brilliant, wasn’t it – I wish I could have seen more of you, but it was so massive; it was difficult enough finding our way to the stadium and back without getting anywhere else! I only saw you the once, just after the game.
Who did you think would win? I know you love Victor Krum, but you have to admit the Irish chasers were incredible – and, if you can believe it, the twins actually predicted the outcome! Irish win, but with Krum catching the snitch – betting with Ludo Bagman, no less!
I certainly wasn’t expecting the Death Eaters, though. Did you get caught up in it all? We were right in the middle of it, and Harry, Ron and Hermione got caught where the Dark Mark was produced! It wasn’t them, of course – but it would be where they were, it’s just their luck!
I was actually just writing because I saw this – the attachment – in the Daily Prophet. I know – it’s Rita Skeeter, and I know – she makes up a load of rubbish every time she writes a sentence, but why would she make up the deaths of people? Just wondering if you’d heard of it, or know anything about it – I’ll keep an eye on the news in the next week or so; I hope they’re okay.
See you back at school – I can’t wait to find out what Percy’s been keeping a secret!
PS – I’ve sent Colin the same thing, just to warn you in case he owls you too!
I stare at the letter for about five minutes, rereading it and trying to make sense of any of it. Nothing makes sense, but I feel a very strong emotion when I see her name signed at the bottom – the G is loopy and the Y curled over, and I have a strong sense of familiarity, as if I have seen it many times before. The fact that this – like the other scrap that had been found in my pocket – are both addressed to Beth assure me that this is my name, and I try it out in my mouth, rolling it over my tongue until it is as familiar as the word “Ginny” seems to be.
We must be a close group of friends – Ginny, Colin and I. I compare both slips of parchment, one from Colin and the other from Ginny. The more I look at them, the more I am convinced that they are real people and that I really am called Beth. The coincidences are too many – once again she has written about a “snitch” and “chasers,” and she mentions Colin at the bottom. I read it once more, my eyes falling on the words “this attachment – in the Daily Prophet,” and I look in the envelope for this, wondering about the paper. I didn’t recognise it, but this was a normal feeling for me now, and I ignore it, instead focussing on the name. The Daily Prophet. It seems as if it was a kind of forecast, and I assume that it is a magazine that claims to predict the future.
The snippet of paper is small, and only contains a few words.
Whether this statement will be enough to quash the rumours that several bodies were removed from the woods an hour later remains to be seen.
However, this doesn’t give me the condolence I was hoping for – it didn’t clear up the letter or make any more sense. All I now know is that this Ginny is worried about the deaths of a couple of strangers – either she knows something about these bodies, or is very suspicious for no apparent reason. I turn the scrap over, to see if there was any more information – a scribbled note, perhaps, or a photo of her.
Instead, I get the shock of my life. I drop the paper onto my bed, and pick it up again immediately to stare closer at it.
Staring back at me is an eye. This in itself isn’t unnatural- nor is the dark eyebrow or even the scar shaped in a lightning bolt on the boy’s forehead. What shocked me is the fact that the picture appeared to be moving. I blink, trying to clear my eyes, and the eye blinks back at me. The iris is startlingly green, and another familiar feeling rushes through me – just like when I saw Ginny’s name for the first time. I am certain that I know this boy, and yet I don’t know what his name is; I don’t know anything about him – much less how I know who he is.
The photo is in the magazine – perhaps he is a celebrity? That would explain how I recognise him, and yet that I don’t know him.
I decide to ask Amanda and John, and in the next second I decide against it. I can’t remember anything still, but I know that a moving photo is not normal, and that it is something I shouldn’t draw attention to.
Almost as soon as I have though this, Amanda and John step through the door. I jump – almost as much as when I first saw the eye – and I shove the scrap of magazine under my pillow as quickly as I can without them suspecting anything.
“Do you want us to know what was in the letter?” she asks, and I like her for this. She doesn’t assume that I want to tell her, and I feel that I can trust her a bit more. I pass her the letter.
“You can read it,” I also pass over the scrap from Colin. “And this is what they found in my pocket, when I was unconscious.”
There is silence for a few moments as both the letters are read, and I fidget – wondering what they will ask, and whether they will say anything about the attachment that Ginny talks about in it. I realise that I am beginning to think of Ginny and Colin as real people, and that I am picturing them in my head as I think about them. In my imagination, Ginny is small and a brunette, with blue eyes and freckles. Colin has glasses, and is very tall and gangly – he has ginger hair.
Amanda speaks first, once she has finished reading them both.
“So you think they are telling the truth?”
I nod, and so she does the same in reply, and I think of the nodding dog on another patient’s bedside table – you touch its head and it bounces up and down for an immeasurable amount of time.
“Do you know what any of the words mean? I don’t know if it’s a code, or just how you young people speak nowadays, but I couldn’t make sense of any of it!”
I smile slightly.
“I think it’s a code – at first I thought I just didn’t remember the words, but the nurses have seen the one from my pocket and they don’t understand it either.”
She smiles and glances at the clock on the wall, before giving a double take.
“Oh god, is that the time? Sorry dear, we have to go – if we find out anything else we’ll be straight back in touch, but John has a dentist appointment and we don’t want to be late.”
I am beginning to warm to them, and surprise myself by not wanting them to leave.
“You can come back if you don’t have any more news,” I say quietly. “It’s quite lonely when you don’t know anyone.”
She smiles happily.
“Of course – we’ll come back tomorrow. Goodbye, Beth!”
John smiles nervously, and I grin back.
“Bye, Beth,” he says carefully.
They are always telling me to start with what I know – to scan through my mind for any new memories that I might have missed.
I know that my name is Beth.
I know that I am between eleven and fourteen.
I know my appearance.
I know that I have friends – Colin and Ginny.
I know that Amanda and John are becoming my source of comfort.
I know that I will find out everything in due time, and I know that I don’t need to worry about it all.
A/N: Thank you so much for reading- this idea has been sprinting around my head for such a long time – it is such a relief to get it out on paper word! Anything you recognise is JK Rowling’s, and there are one or two direct quotes from the Goblet of Fire. Please review if you liked it – or if you didn’t! Love and kisses, Megan xo