Alice wondered frantically for the millionth time, only to conclude for the millionth time—no, they don’t know I’m here. How had torture made her a prisoner in her own body? Somehow this childlike state had taken over her outside, yet she was still inside.
She couldn’t tell them. She watched them come and go, helpless to let them know she understood.
She watched her beloved Frank trapped in a similar prison of his own—just as sure he was deep inside his as she was deep inside hers. She saw the blankness in his eyes, the slowness of his movements, the feeble smiles, the baby words, and knew they mirrored her own. She had no way of showing him she was still in here, that she still loved him, except through the tantrum she threw if they tried to take him out of the room without her. Just like the tantrum he threw when they tried to move her away. They had to be taken for their baths together. They had to be kept together. It was her proof that he was every bit as much still there as she was.
Neville. Does he know I’m here? Sometimes she thought he did. Sometimes when she pressed the gum wrapper into his hand, in her frantic attempt to communicate her love to him, she thought he understood. Augusta had brought him regularly, dutifully, every weekend until he went to Hogwarts. Then she’d brought him every holiday weekend when he was home. She’d watched him grow and couldn’t even tell him how proud she was—couldn’t give him the hug he needed from his mother. She could see such love and pain in his eyes. He was lonely. But he was a good person, a kind person: she could see that, too. Her heart would about burst with love for him, but she couldn’t show him. Why did this bloody curse only allow her to give him a gum wrapper? Please, Neville, I know you want to find me. I know you can find the way. Don’t give up.
Augusta Longbottom: dutifully coming to see the martyrs for the cause. You don’t believe we’re here. You try to make Neville throw the gum wrappers away. When he wanted to read to me, you told him it was a waste of time. You praise the sacrifice Frank and I made, you’ve raised our Neville for us, but you have no hope. You don’t want Neville to hope. Let him hope, Augusta. We’re still here. You’re like the Healers, the Aurors, the distant family, those occasional visitors—you’ve given up. You talk about us like we aren’t in the room. But I’m here, Augusta, I’m here. I’m your daughter-in-law. I dare you to find me.
I’m here! Why can’t I scream it? Why can’t I at least show it on my face? Squeeze it with my fingers? I’m here!
A large tear rolled down Alice Longbottom’s cheek. The Healer kindly wiped it away. “I think she’s having a little hayfever today.”
A/N: A little thank you to Katieay for chasing plot bunnies with me would be great. (Plus one of thanks to my temporary beta Sherylyn for jumping in while my usual beta is in Switzerland.)