Chapter 2 : A Tough Pill to Swallow
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The silence in the room was deafening. Each tick of the second hand above the door grated on my nerves and solidified my suspicion that the clock must be charmed to make time move slower in here. Beside me, Lorcan pretended to read the Daily Prophet. I opened my mouth to say something, but then decided to just let it be. Instead, I just gave his hand a small squeeze. It had been seven years since Lorcan had set foot in St. Mungo’s and being here couldn’t have been easy for him. I had tried to spare him from making the trip down here with me, but his constant insistence had eventually won out.
“There’s no telling how much longer we’ll be waiting here,” I whispered. We had waited half an hour in the main waiting room before I was finally called into the smaller exam room. I knew from experience that this didn’t mean the waiting game was over. “You should go back to work. I’ll be fine.” Lorcan looked up from the paper and shook his head once before returning his gaze to the same page he had been staring at for forty-five minutes. I held in an exasperated sigh that was dying to get out. While I didn't see this side of Lorcan very often, and he had a very good reason for acting the way he was, the icy silence was getting a little hard to take.
As if he could read my thoughts, Lorcan squeezed my hand back. “There’s no need to worry, Lily. I have the rest of the day off. I’m fine with waiting.” He rubbed his thumb across the back of my hand and gave me a small smile. I planted a quick peck on his cheek. The last time I had seen Lorcan in this building was seven years ago - the night he crumbled into grief when he lost his twin brother. It broke my heart that the place I found so comforting and inspiring was the same place that Lorcan couldn’t stand. I blinked back a few tears as I thought about how he had chosen to be here for me even though it meant being confronted with the pain of losing Lysander all over again.
“Miss Potter?” Healer Sweetbriar’s gentle voice pulled me from my thoughts. I let out a sigh of relief and smiled as she shut the door behind her. Daisy Sweetbriar was one of the most respected healers at St. Mungo’s. If any of my colleagues had to know the reason why I was here today, I was glad it was Daisy. Not only was she incredibly brilliant, but she had more kindness and professionalism in her baby finger than most people had in their entire bodies. Her long brown hair was swept up into a bun on top of her head and her violet eyes met mine as she sat down behind a small silver desk.
“Hi Healer Sweetbriar,” I said, a blush rising to my cheeks. While I knew that coming here was the right thing to do, I also felt extremely self-conscious. I had almost cancelled my appointment out of fear of everyone thinking I was insane when this turned out to be nothing. But it was the nagging feeling that this wasn’t ‘nothing’ that kept me from following through. There was no turning back now.
“Why don’t we start with what brought you in today?” Her quill scratched across the parchment as she made notes on my symptoms. The time passed quickly as her questions gently prodded me to provide more details about the black holes in my memory, the kinds of things I was forgetting as well as the duration and severity of my memory loss. When I mentioned that it had gotten significantly worse over the past three days, I saw her quill freeze in the air. When I told her about the episode with forgetting Lorcan’s name, I saw her frown.
“What is it?” I blurted. “Sorry,” I quickly added, “I…I…just know that look and I’d rather know all the possibilities than be left wondering.” My heart thudded in my chest and heat radiated through my body. I avoided Lorcan’s gaze as I quickly slipped my hand out of his.
“Lily, don’t get ahead of yourself,” Healer Sweetbriar said sympathetically. “But as I’ve come to know you quite well over the last two years, I know that speaking plainly would be best in this situation. It is entirely possible that this is stress-related. The Healer training regime is rigorous, demanding and extremely stressful. I wouldn’t be surprised if many of your fellow trainees were going through the same thing. However, there is a chance that this could be something more serious than that.” She leaned forward, placing her cool hand on my forearm. “But before we go down that road, I want to assure you that we will run all the necessary tests to give you the answers you need.”
As she compiled a detailed report of my symptoms and family history, I began to feel comforted by the whole process. Her confidence that we would find the answers was exactly what I needed.
“There is just one more thing I need to ask before we’re through here,” Healer Sweetbriar said. “To your knowledge, have you had any experience with any memory modification or come into contact with any neural-specific spells?”
I froze. My mind instantly went back to that night seven years ago.
“It’s nothing to worry about either way,” Healer Sweetbriar said, noticing my reaction. “It can be useful in formulating a more individualized plan of diagnosis, but it isn’t necessary.” I gave her a small smile and shook my head.
“If I think of anything, I’ll let you know,” I said as I took Lorcan’s hand and got up from my seat. As we said our goodbyes and confirmed the dates for the first round of tests, I felt a prickling at the back of my neck. Could that run-in with Matthieu really have been the start of all this? I tried to place the black holes in some sort of chronological order. I didn’t have much success. It was like trying to locate a missing earring in the dark. I was grasping around my subconscious, hoping to land on something that would seem familiar.
“What do you say?” Lorcan asked as we exited the hospital. The sun shone brightly in the clear blue sky and I felt a warm breeze ruffle my turquoise skirt. I turned to face him and had to shield my eyes from the sun’s glare.
“Sorry?” I said. I had been so wrapped up in my own thoughts that I hadn’t heard a word Lorcan had said since we left the exam room.
“Feel like grabbing a curry before I drop you off at home?” I gave him a small smile and nodded. While my sudden memory loss was incredibly scary and confusing, I knew those feelings didn’t solely reside within me. If the situation was reversed and Lorcan was the one going through a potentially serious health concern, I knew that I would be a complete mess.
“Always,” I said, swinging our hands back and forth. As much as I wanted to tell Lorcan what was troubling me, I didn’t want to cause him unneeded worry. If Matthieu had nothing to do with my situation, then there was no point in upsetting Lorcan about something that had happened years ago. But if Matthieu was involved… then it was very likely that whatever was going on with me was far more serious than I had feared. Matthieu Lyon didn’t play around with the kind of magic we learned at Hogwarts. He used something darker, something that was both familiar and unfamiliar at the same time.
Seven years ago… Monday March 13th
I looked up from my parchment and glanced at the table to my left. Lorcan was studying with Kenna and every time I saw her brush her arm against his, I felt like I was going to be sick.
“Do you want to leave?” Hugo asked, his eyes following my line of sight. “It’s actually quite mild outside. We could study in the courtyard.” Even though the library was packed tonight, Hugo and I were the only ones at our table. Over the past few months, being left alone was something that I had come to expect from my fellow classmates. I was no longer ridiculed about the state of my sanity, I was simply avoided. There were no whispers as I walked by, no snickers behind my back, no dirty looks from across the room. If it wasn’t for Hugo, I would have given up hope a long time ago.
“No, I’m ok,” I lied. It was crazy how fast things could change. When Hugo and I had successfully transformed Lorcan back to his true form three months ago, it seemed as though there was light at the end of the tunnel. He had remembered the lengths we had gone to to save him and I had every indication that my days of loving him afar were over. Whenever I thought about how we had walked hand in hand down the hallway that night, I felt my heart constrict. It was like a sick joke. Because the very next morning, it was like I had stepped into some sort of alternate universe. Lorcan didn’t remember that he had been transformed into an ant, he didn’t remember Hugo and I saving him, nor did he remember telling me that thinking of me always inspired his best poetry. He looked at us as if we had lost our minds; when really, I think someone had been playing with his.
“Ok well, if it makes you feel any better, I believe you’re right about Kenna,” Hugo said. “But you’re stark-raving mad if you think sneaking out tonight is a good plan.” His voice took on a harsh tone that I rarely heard leave Hugo’s lips. He was worried about me, I got that. But this was something that I had to do. I had overheard Kenna arguing with Nikhil about leaving the castle tonight to meet someone and I wasn’t about to let this opportunity pass me by.
“When he first transformed back,” I said to Hugo, “Lorcan had a reaction when Kenna’s name was mentioned. And it wasn’t a good one. The fact that he conveniently doesn’t remember anything after leaving Hogwarts to be with Lysander just makes me that much more certain that Kenna is involved with this. She messed with his memory, I know it. And I want to know why. I may not get another chance.” I let out an exasperated sigh. Hugo and I had been over this countless times and neither one of us was willing to budge.
“Then let me come with you,” Hugo pleaded. “Whoever she’s meeting is probably really dangerous.”
“You know I’d want you there, if I could,” I said. “But I need you here to cover for me. If I’m caught sneaking out, or back in, then I’m expelled from Hogwarts. That would literally be the final straw. And since you’re the only one here who can even look me in the eye, I need your help to make sure that I can get out and back in completely undetected.” Hugo opened his mouth, but then quickly closed it. I took that as a good sign.
“You’re the only one I can trust,” I said. “Can I count on you?”
“You know you can,” Hugo said without a moment’s pause.
The charming town of Hogsmede was completely transformed in the darkness. It was deathly silent and completely abandoned. A shiver ran down my spine as I crouched behind a tall evergreen. As I peaked around the thick green branches, I had a clear view of the entire main street.
The sound of soft footsteps drew my attention to the left. I squinted and could see two figures emerge from the shadows. It had to be Kenna and her mystery person. I watched until I was sure of their destination and then emerged from my hiding spot. Sticking to the shadows, I quietly followed them to the clock tower.
Just as I opened the white wooden door, I heard Kenna’s voice. “No, not yet. But I’m sure he’ll agree. I just need some more time.” I would have bet money that she was talking about Lorcan. As I pondered what she had planned for him, my hand formed a tight fist.
Stepping carefully, I eased the door closed and kept my back against the white stone wall. I stopped where I was, wanting to make sure that my entrance hadn’t been detected. The narrow entryway where I stood was dark, but the glow from the lit candles in the open area up ahead helped me get my bearings. The clock tower served as a memorial to those who had lost their lives during the Great War. While it wasn’t on my ‘must-see’ list of places to visit when I was in Hogsmede, I had been here enough times with my parents to have a good sense of the layout. As I stepped lightly, I passed the winding staircase that led up to the clock. Once I reached the end of this wall, I could hear my heartbeat pounding in my ears. I could now see the huge circular meeting area in the centre of the tower. There was a small stage at the front where annual concerts were held and there were flowers and trees planted all over the room. As a little girl I often ran around in here wondering how a room ‘inside’ could feel so much like ‘outside’. I held my breath and slowly moved my head past the edge of the wall. I saw Kenna standing in front of a figure cloaked in black. With the candlelight and the moon’s glow shining through the numerous windows, I had a clear view of her face. She was nodding her head at the person speaking. I tilted my head toward the raspy mumblings, but I couldn’t make out any of words.
He must have said something alarming because I saw Kenna’s head whip around towards the entrance. I quickly ducked back behind the wall. The look on her face was one of pure terror. I took a deep breath to calm my pounding heart and leaned my head back against the wall. They knew someone was in here with them. I turned my head to the right and weighed my chances of reaching the door before they heard me. No, my best chance was to remain hidden until they left. When I turned my head back towards Kenna, I saw a man standing directly in front of me.
A choked scream escaped my throat.
“Looks like we have a visitor.” Standing before me was Matthieu Lyon. He seemed older than the images the Prophet used of him. No longer was he the fresh-faced boy with a mischievous grin. He now had dark shadows under his brown eyes and his face seemed to have a pale sheen that made him look quite ill.
I shifted my weight toward the door, but Matthieu’s hand latched onto my upper arm and threw me back against the wall. It knocked the breath right out of me and I closed my eyes as I slowly slid down to the ground.
“No you don’t, princess,” he hissed, lifting me back up. With a hard push he shoved me toward the open area where Kenna was standing.
Gasping for breath, I fell forward at her feet.
“Did you know about this?” Matthieu asked Kenna, a hard edge to his voice.
“Of course not. Lily Potter is a moron, but I didn’t think she had a death wish. I guess I was wrong.” Kenna stepped towards me and I felt her lift me to my feet. She moved me back against the wall, so that she was directly in front of me. I heard Matthieu chuckle and although I wanted to spit in her face, my head felt too heavy to lift. I felt her sweaty hand under my chin. “Do you want to die?” Her laugh bounced off the walls, but her eyes were filled with fear. I took a deep breath and shook my head.
“If that’s what you’re after, all you had to do was ask.” Matthieu stepped forward, his wand in hand, and Kenna’s turned away so he couldn’t see her face.
“Oh that’s no fun, Matthieu. Lily Potter has been a thorn in my side for far too long. Killing her would just let her off the hook. She needs to pay for all that she has done to me.” Over Matthieu’s shoulder I saw Kenna raise her hands, her palms facing me. I saw them shake and knew that no matter how Kenna and I felt about each other, she was trying to get me out of this mess. And if that was the case, then I must be in serious trouble. I felt my knees shake when I saw Matthieu raise his wand. The dullness in his eyes was gone. They now shone with excitement.
He turned to Kenna. “And how should she pay, my dear?”
“Let’s put boils all over her body….or turn her into a toad so that I can keep her in a box under my bed.” Kenna paced back and forth behind Matthieu, her gaze locked on the floor.
“Now who’s letting her off too easy,” Matthieu said, turning to Kenna. He took her hand and raised it to his lips. If Matthieu had looked up, he would have seen the look of utter disgust on Kenna’s face, but as his eyes were closed, all he heard was a girlish giggle as she ran her other hand through his light brown hair.
“This girl has made your life miserable, Kenna. And I can’t stand that. She must pay.” Matthieu turned back to me and reached into his jacket pocket. When he opened his hand, I saw what looked like a small brown pill. “Lily Potter, you can leave here with your life, but first you must pay the price.” He smiled wide and placed one hand on my shoulder.
I felt a slight pressure behind my eyes and raised my hand to my forehead. When I looked up at Matthieu, he had an amused look on his face.
“I’ll pay,” I said, my voice shaking. “However much you want, I’ll get it to you. I promise.”
“I don’t want your money,” he sneered. “What I’m asking for is just a few memories of the one you hold most dear.” My brow furrowed and I shook my head in an attempt to wrap my head around what he could possibly want with my memories.
“There’s nothing to be worried about,” Matthieu said, extending his hand with the pill closer to me. “I’m not taking anything from you. You’ll still know those moments happened. You just won’t be able to recall them vividly. Which, from what I gather, is actually doing you a great service. Unrequited love can be so draining.” He looked past me for a moment, his mind going somewhere else. When he saw the look on my face, he laughed.
From the corner of my eye I saw Kenna slowly nod her head. “Ok,” I said, biting the corner of my bottom lip. While I had a gnawing feeling that there must be more to this than he was letting on, I didn’t exactly have a lot of options at the moment.
“Wise choice,” he said, his eyes sparkling in the candlelight. “Now, since I’m doing you a big favour by sparing your life tonight, we don’t need to have a conversation about what will happen to you, or your loved ones, if you try and play the hero and alert the Ministry, right?” His eyes narrowed and I flinched when he raised his hand. I closed my eyes and held my breath as he tucked a strand of my hair behind my ear. I didn’t need to consult Kenna for the best way to answer this question. I shook my head vigorously.
“Good. Now that that’s all sorted, we can move forward.” He held the pill between his thumb and finger. “This might cause you to feel a little groggy at first, so you’d better sit down. Kenna?” As I slid to the floor, I saw Kenna take out her wand. I closed my eyes and heard her let out a deep sigh as she sat down beside me.
“Don’t be scared, Lily,” Matthieu said, kneeling in front of me. “All you have to do is take this pill. And then, once I have your memories, you are free to leave.” I took the brown pill and examined it. How could taking a pill give him some of my memories?
“While we’re still young, Potter,” Kenna said in a flat voice. I took that as a not so subtle nudge to hurry up. The fact that I was trusting Kenna seemed so ludicrous, I probably would have laughed if I wasn’t terrified out of my mind. I just wanted this whole night to be over with.
I dropped the pill into my mouth. “The chocolate coating makes it go down easier. But you have to wait fifteen minutes for full potency,” Matthieu said. Losing a few memories of Lorcan was scary, but it wasn’t like he would be completely gone from my mind. I would still know what happened in the memories that Matthieu chose to take from me. Besides, how often did I want to go back and re-live a memory anyway? Not that often. And when I thought about all the cringe-worthy moments I had this year alone, I could see the appeal of losing some moments that replayed over and over in my head. All in all, although it didn't seem like such a horrible price to pay, it did still seem like a bizarre request. As I started to taste the chocolate on my tongue, I wondered about the memories Matthieu would choose. Sure, I had loved Lorcan for as long as I could remember, but the only memories of us that I would have fought to keep, would have been the ones about our first date, first kiss, first ‘I love you’. And none of those had happened…yet. My heart fluttered at the thought that Lorcan and I could have a whole lifetime to make up for the memories Matthieu took tonight. I tilted my head up, swallowed, and waited for this pill to work its magic.
A/N: The quote in italics is from the movie, The Princess Bride (1987), directed by Rob Reiner and written by William Goldman. I hope you enjoyed reading this!
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