His steps sound heavy on the staircase. Two more floors to go.
It is that day again, that date which is important to no one but him. Today, it has been twenty years.
He stops, turning to look out of the window so no one can see his face. All the people passing by are much too occupied with themselves to notice him anyway. He isn’t someone who naturally draws attention towards himself, like Draco Malfoy, nor is his face known throughout the wizarding world, like Harry Potter's.
On an occasion like this, he is glad about that fact.
His hands clutch the white roses that he has brought with him. White for innocence… white for the innocent lives which had been irreparably damaged twenty years ago. He kicks his foot against the wall.
Twenty white roses for the twenty years he has been coming here.
Twenty white roses for twenty years of mourning, for twenty years of hurting, for twenty years of sadness. For twenty years without his parents.
The first times were the worst. All the Healers had told his gran not to bring him along. But his gran always did everything differently from everyone else. So, he was allowed to come with her, pressing his face against her warm body and clinging to his toy duck. As merely an 18 month old toddler, he was delighted to see his mum again. He couldn’t understand why she didn’t talk to him, why she didn’t smile – why she seemed to ignore him. In the evening, he cried himself to sleep.
Each week, they came to see his parents. Each week, he hoped for an improvement. Each week, he was disappointed. The recovery of his parents went far too slowly for the impatient little boy who wanted to show them his latest tricks, speak to them, have their attention. He couldn’t really understand why they didn't react, he just felt his gran’s sadness and that they weren’t going to recover soon.
When he was two, he had nightmares of being trapped in his own body, unable to move even his little toe. Each night he would wake up screaming and shivering as if someone had plunged him into a big cauldron filled with ice cold water. He couldn’t stand being inside his parents’ room, seeing them lying there so passively. Soon, he started to refuse to go there at all. But his grandmother forced him into the room each week anyway, and didn’t allow him to leave until he started crying loudly.
When he was three, his great-uncle Algie regularly gave him Dreamless Sleep Draughts, which prevented the nightmares. But, as he was old and his sight wasn't as good as it once had been, he tended to overdose it, which made the small boy sleepy all day. The good thing about it was that it also calmed him during the day – he was able to see his parents again without having an attack. The biggest part of his mind didn’t seem to care about that state they were in anymore, and his family was relieved to have prevented “severe mental problems.”
While most of the other children already performed their bits of accidental magic within four years, he seemed to still be blocked at that age. His gran started eyeing him suspiciously and threw the Dreamless Sleep Draughts away. Finally, he could cry again when he visited his parents. The nightmares, however, returned; when he woke up screaming, no one would come to see him. “You are a big boy now,” great-uncle Algie once said, “so stop wailing.” Certainly he meant well; it had been that way when great-uncle Algie was a small boy himself; they were a family of Gryffindors after all.
One day after his fifth birthday, his gran started tutoring him. From then on, the phrase he heard most often was: “You aren’t as good as your dad was.” It hurt him more than he let show. After everything that had happened, he longed for love, warmth and support, and the only thing he got was criticism. He often lay wide awake at night, too afraid of the nightmares, and wished that his parents were healthy again. In his head, he had his own dream world, filled with “what ifs.” When he was grown up, he wanted to become a Healer and therefore worked even harder than the family made him. But no matter how much he learnt and how hard he tried, he just wasn’t able to do some things the others called “important.”
On his sixth birthday, his mum recognised him. It was the happiest day in his life, and when she touched his hair, he started crying like a baby. Normally his gran glanced at him disapprovingly when he cried, but this time she was too preoccupied with her hankie to bother. He guessed that she cried, too. Hope was reborn. His parents improved slowly, but steadily, and in his dreams he already saw them coming home. As he didn’t need to become a Healer anymore, he started being a bit more relaxed when his gran tutored him. Not that she noticed – at this time, she was too excited about his parents to care if he had scored 100% on one of her tests about family history.
During the year when he was seven, his parents’ condition steadily improved. They started walking and making small sounds. He was certain that they had invented their own language and spent hours writing down what they were saying, trying to detect something significant. His mother started giving him presents, as he liked to call the colourful wrappers, all of which he stored in a beautiful box which he had bought from a month’s worth of pocket money. Most of his gran’s lessons were spent daydreaming of a family, a house of their own, and a lot of little baby brothers and sisters.
When he was eight, his gran started worrying because he still hadn’t shown any magical abilities – that is, until one day when great-uncle Algie let him fall out of the window. The family was thrilled, and they travelled to the hospital immediately to tell his parents. They were getting better, and he imagined that he saw his father’s eyes glow when his gran told them about his first bit of magic. He was doing worse than his mum, who certainly understood what they meant, as she started giving him various presents.
When he was nine, he started scanning the Daily Prophet advertisements for houses. His mother started calling him “Nev,” the first understandable word she had said for ages. Now he – along with every other family member – was certain that they would be released soon. They were getting tutoring from various Healers and learned to redevelop their skills. His dad still lacked a bit in the speech department, but he had found a fondness of drawing and presented everyone with scribbles that looked like a three-year-old had done them. Soon his room was plastered with them, and he had to get a new box for his mum’s presents. Everything was just turning out fine, or so he thought.
When he was ten, a disaster happened. Somehow his parents had a major relapse. They didn’t recognise him anymore and became aggressive whenever he entered their room. No one knew for certain why they showed these signs. It was a horrible time for him. When his dad somehow tried to strangle him, he wasn’t allowed to go into their room anymore. Many afternoons he spent gazing at them through the small window in their door. He missed them terribly. It had always been a unique feeling when his mother stroked his head – it had given him safety and stability. Soon, the nightmares returned. He feared not being able to touch his parents ever again. He feared the night. He feared their house – there were visible reminders everywhere he looked. Pictures, presents, everything reminded him of his parents and of their condition. He became insecure and thus started failing even the easiest tests his gran set him.
When he was eleven, he was accepted to Hogwarts. At first, he was simply delighted and proud, strolling through their manor with his dad’s old wand. Of course, they went to St. Mungo’s to show his parents the letter and his new robes and the wand, but he wasn’t allowed to go in. All day he had dreamt about being kissed by his mother, – like every mother supposedly did when her child received his letter – about being cuddled by his father. Instead, he spent forty minutes in front of their door, trying to get a glimpse of his mum. He wasn’t in the mood for a party anymore. To tell the truth, he wasn’t in the mood for anything. He was just anxious for his parents, and could never get them out of his mind.
During the next years, he became a disappointment to his family. It had always been obvious that he wasn’t bursting with magical talent, but everyone – including him – had hoped that he would become as good as his parents when in professional hands. Although he was working hard, he wasn’t able to fully concentrate on doing magic. His parents were doing worse and, as he could conclude from his gran’s letters, she feared for their lives. Their condition was bad, they didn’t recognise anyone anymore; they weren’t able to control their bodies anymore; they were getting weaker every day. He longed for someone to confide in, and if Hermione hadn’t been Petrified, she would have been his first choice. Instead, he turned to Professor Sprout for support, a woman so kind and gentle that she was able to replace the mother he had never had. In Herbology he found a bit of peace – plants didn't talk and never made any fuss about unimportant things, but still were very powerful. These silent moments gave him the strength to move on and not to just curl up in his bed and cry.
In the summer when he was thirteen he knew enough about plants to question the treatments his parents received and discussed them with the Healers. It gave him the feeling of actually trying to improve his parents’ state and as they were too weak to pose a threat to him anymore, he was allowed to go into their room and sit at their bed. Although several Healers told him it was no use to spend time with people who were obviously too ill to notice their only son and warned his gran about the psychological effects this might have on him, he insisted on seeing them every day. He talked to them for hours about his life at Hogwarts and the adventures he had been through. When he mentioned Fluffy, he thought he saw a smile on his father’s lips. The attention was doing wonders for his parents – soon he was under the impression that they actually listened intently and enjoyed their time with him. The Healers explained their improvement with complicated medical words and potions but he knew: it was he who had done it. He returned to the new school year with new found strength. However, he was thinking about his parents so often that he maybe concentrated even less and was more forgetful than before. But this time, he was filled with happy thoughts… thoughts full of hope.
When he was fourteen his parents improved even more. In the fake Moody’s lesson he found out exactly what the curse was like that they had been tortured with, which disturbed him greatly. He had always known that Bellatrix Lestrange was awful, but to do this to human beings, she had to be simply evil. A hatred towards her was developing inside him; a desire to hurt her and to take revenge. He was afraid of himself for these feelings and ashamed that he, who knew how horrible the effects of torture were, wanted to torture someone himself.
In his fifth year, he made himself and his gran proud. Alongside with Harry Potter, he stood up to the people who had hurt his parents. His hatred grew and exploded and he knew that he wouldn’t be able to rest peacefully until the evil was gone. He developed well in school and finally found something he had inherited from his parents – a talent for Defence Against the Dark Arts, and a passion to fight the Dark Side. Some motivation was still about revenge, but, more importantly, it was about what was just and what was right.
After his sixth year, he started bringing his mum white roses. They reminded him of Dumbledore’s tomb – his parents had fought for the same cause, just as he would. Through the years he had grown more confident and his gran often told him how much he looked like his dad. “But you have your mother’s good heart,” she always added and then ruffled his hair affectionately. Since he had stood up to the Death Eaters again, his gran warmed up to him more than ever. Although, he had the slight suspicion that he was mainly a substitute for the son she had lost.
When he was seventeen, he was fully drawn into the war against the people who had made his life hell. St. Mungo’s and the cemeteries were filled with people who had been attacked, and he found that he wasn’t alone anymore. There were others who had suffered losses as well, and it was like a common bond between all of them. Often he was able to help someone and found more pleasure and strength in caring for the other students than in fighting on the battlefield. This was a way of fighting the Dark Lord too, and it just felt right for him. Death Eaters were evil, but some of them had children, too, who would mourn them. But when the war came to Hogwarts a second time, he was the one who prepared the others, who told them what to do, who sent the smaller ones to a safe place and then stayed behind to fight in memory of all the victims. And when he took on his first Death Eater, he suddenly saw something different: this war had to be finished, and even if he had to hurt this man, it wouldn’t be too high a price; it would prevent other attacks on innocent people. The boy who had been afraid of being a Squib became the Gryffindor lion and fought like his father would have done.
When he was eighteen, the wizarding world was recovering slowly. Many had been killed; everyone was hurt, whether visibly or inwardly. He didn’t know what to do now – he wanted to do something useful, like being a Healer, but he knew that his grades weren’t sufficient enough for that. He spent a lot of time discussing this matter with his parents. Of course it was more of a monologue as they weren’t able to speak, but he knew that they understood. Talking to them gave him strength and after a while he knew what his destiny was. He would help children like him.
When he was nineteen, Bellatrix Lestrange was arrested and received the Dementor’s Kiss for the crimes she had committed. He and his gran had to give evidence at court, and when he described his parents’ condition, she cried silently. It was the first time he had ever seen his gran cry. When Harry told him about the Kiss, he gave a cry of joy, although he felt bad about being glad for another person being Kissed.
When he was twenty, his gran died. She was an old woman and it was to be expected, but it was still a shock for him. For some weeks, he felt like he was falling into an abyss, with no family left. But there was someone left – his parents, who listened to him silently. His mother cried with him, although he wasn’t certain if she knew why she was crying. His father nodded and tried to comfort him like a small child would try to comfort his parents. They gave him the strength to go on, despite his fate.
And now he’s twenty-one. Twenty years have passed; twenty white roses for his parents. He has changed, their relationship has changed. And still it hurts, thinking about all the years of their illness. Still he finds himself wondering what would have happened if Bellatrix Lestrange hadn’t dropped by on that winter evening.
When he enters their ward, he sees his mother smile and his father comes towards him, eyeing him curiously. He knows why, and he laughs – normally he brings some sweets, which his father is very fond of. But today it’s his mother’s turn first. Her eyes are beaming when she sees the flowers, and he feels that both his parents are happy to see him again. He hasn’t much time to visit anymore, but he knows that their good wishes are with him, although they can’t tell him that. He pulls his mother into a hug and feels all warm and comfortable when she hugs him back. “Nev,” his father says, and he has to suppress his tears. They sit down and talk and all his anger and sadness evaporates when he sees the eager looks on their faces… when he notices how much they care about him. And he realises: the last twenty years aren’t all about mourning and hurting and sadness. It’s also about development and remaining strong. He isn’t an orphan – his parents will always be there for him and support him. And even though they may never able to be “normal” again or speak to him, they have and share so much of the world’s greatest power: love.
A/N: Hugs und thanks to my wonderful betas! You've done a great job – thank you very much for your help, support and good tips!
Disclaimer: Not mine! Never was, never will be. All Jo’s.