Monster 39: Awakening

Amalia opened her eyes with a sleepy frown. She felt… odd. Confused.

After a moment's deliberation, she sat up, her comfortable Slytherin silk coverlet pooling at her waist.

She rubbed her eyes and looked around blearily, but everything seemed okay – normal. The dormitory was quiet: Charlotte, Anne and Callidora seemed to be already up and gone, their beds neatly made up.

Perhaps that, in itself, was odd – Amalia was a morning person, and as a rule, she and Anne were usually the first to rise. Since starting at Hogwarts a mere 3 months previous, Amalia hadn't slept in once, even on weekends.

Was it the weekend? She could not recall.

She could not recall.

"No, no, NO…!" Alert now, she struggled free of her covers, feeling adrenaline start to surge. I don't remember…!

"What-" she gasped, her mind jumping through various scenarios and the endless possibilities with lightning speed. "It can't be-"

What was the last thing she remembered?

She had been standing in the Forbidden Forrest with Riddle, waiting for the snake to return with the Portkey and information. Then… Nothing, until now, when she woke up.

Had her father or the masked wizards found her? But that didn't make sense – why would she be back at Hogwarts if that was the case? But if it wasn't them…

That left-

"…Riddle." She spat, and rage surged within her. She'd warned him – the bastard! – didn't he learn anything from the last time he messed around with her head?

She groped for her wand. It was where she usually kept it, neatly on the bedside table at an easy-to-reach angle. As if she'd placed it there herself…

As she snatched up the wand, a piece of parchment fluttered to the ground from her hurried movements. She picked it up and smoothed it out with fingers that trembled slightly, as her eyes flew across the page.

Amalia, (started a script that was uncannily like her own…)

Do not murder Riddle. He did not do this. (that's precisely what he would make me write, she thought mulishly)

And no, he did not make me write this, either. (the other-Amalia continued, in what Amalia somehow imagined was a resigned, long-suffering way)

But you won't believe anything until things are explained fully, so go downstairs – calmly – find Riddle, and read the notes we've made to explain the situation. Don't waste time – you both need to work on finding a solution as soon as possible. This is only going to get worse.

Good luck

She blinked a few times, and reread the letter, but could not make head or tails of the situation. It certainly ended dramatically enough.

Resolved to only murder Riddle once she was sure of the facts, she dressed quickly, glancing around for any signs that could give her a clue as to what day it was. Strangely, she didn't feel very rested, although her anxiety kept her quite alert. Glancing in an ornate mirror on the back of the dormitory door, she saw black rings under her tired eyes.

She surmised it was weekend, since the enchanted clock on the wall was nearing 10:00 in the morning and she would have been in class if it had been a weekday.

But that conclusion was problematic in itself. They'd been in the Forrest on a Saturday night, and had stayed up until almost dawn the next morning trying to find the counter-curse for Riddle's wound. It didn't fit. She suspected more time than a few hours had been lost, and not knowing the scope of this new blank in her memory disturbed her greatly. Could it be that an entire week was lost? Longer?! The thought was terrifying.

Taking her wand and the letter, she rushed out and up the winding stairs to the Common Room, immediately spotting Riddle as she entered.

He was sitting on a couch with his back to her, his gaze on the crackling fire in the grate. A neat pile of books and parchment scrolls rested on the table next to him. They were the only students visible.

As she cautiously approached, she noticed he had the black diary she'd given him for Christmas in his lap, his pale fingers running absently up and down with the spine.

He looked up as she approached, and she frowned at the deep black circles under his eyes, matching hers.

"Took you long enough." he said without preamble, with a tight grimace.

"Riddle, what is going-"

"Here." He interrupted, holding out the diary. "Read this first."

She took it from him, feeling alarmed as his eyes lost focus and moved away from her, back to studying the dancing flames with unblinking intensity.

She sank down next to him and opened the diary, skimming the extensive notes in what she recognised as a mix of her untidy scrawl and Riddle's precise lettering.

10 minutes later…

"This is ridiculous!" burst Amalia, pacing up and down. The diary lay on the couch next to him, open to the pages that had detailed the horrifying truth.

"And yet, here we are." Riddle pointed out drily, turning to watch her pacing. "So, how much of your memory did you lose this time?" he asked, with academic curiosity.

Amalia ran a hand through her hair distractedly. "I only remember sending off the snake – then, nothing… Nothing about what happened next, going through, discovering this warded circle on the other side – or any of the research we did after that in the last week!"

The notes she'd skimmed through in the diary detailed their (unsuccessful) attempts at untangling their current predicament, hastily patched together from a broad range of magical theories, spells, counter-curses and enchantments.

"It's safe to say, then," Riddle surmised, "That not only are we losing memory whenever we sleep, but that the amount of memory loss is getting progressively worse as well. I wonder if it continues indefinitely, until we have no recollection of who we are at all?" he sounded impressively emotionless, though Amalia noticed his hands were white-knuckled on the edge of the sofa.

She scowled at him, fighting her own hysteria down with difficulty. "Don't say that!" she scolded. "We are going to figure this out!"

He inclined his head sardonically, "How very bracing to hear you sound so optimistic. I must admit it's an improvement on the previous time you woke up," he drawled. "You tried to kill me. Again."

That's probably why I wrote the note, Amalia thought privately, glad for her foresight.

She sat down on the plush Common Room rug in front of the fire and crossed her legs, conjuring a quill and ink with a distracted flick of her wand. She decided to summarise the main facts on a new page – the previous notes and hurried scribbles were giving her anxiety.

"Okay, let's see. My last memory is sending the snake through the Portal." she noted it down. "What about you?"

"Well, I've been awake for the last three days-"

She looked up. "What, really?" Amalia blinked at him, "No wonder you look so awful."

He glared at her with bloodshot eyes. "I'm fine." He croaked, and then cleared his throat.

She stared. "How are you staying awake?"

"A potion."

"I see." She frowned. "Hey, why didn't I use it to stay awake, too?!"

"You did," he gritted out shortly, "But the limit for using them is around three days. After that, there are… side-effects. Last night we decided you should sleep so we could find out if the curse had started to wear off... or, if it was getting worse. Evidently," he grimaced, "The curse - or whatever it is - hasn't worn off yet."

Amalia considered this for a moment. "I don't think we can anticipate that happening soon... if ever. We have to figure out a solution right now."

"What do you think we've been trying to do?" he snapped.

She paused, struck by a sudden thought. "Were you... waiting for me to wake up?"

"No," he instantly denied, scowling tiredly. "Like I said, I'm fine. I'm not experiencing any side-effects yet."

He didn't seem to notice that there was a muscle twitching unnaturally in his left cheek.

Amalia looked away and decided to let it go for now. Riddle was extremely prickly on very little sleep - no need to draw attention to it. "Uh… sure." She turned her attention back to the diary, and checked the dates on the previous pages. "So... if today is a Saturday morning, that means you last slept on… hm, Tuesday night?" she flicked back to the relevant diary page. It was the filled with rather frantic-looking note-taking in both of their handwriting.

He nodded.

"I assume I also slept that night. When we woke up, what did we remember?"

"It's in the diary," Riddle said waspishly.

"Summarise it for me." she raised her eyebrows expectantly.

He huffed, but then decided to comply with a surly glare. "We remembered the snake returning with the Portkey. It informed me of a quiet clearing in a nondescript part of the Forrest, and of a magical barrier around a stone arch. We decided it was safe enough, and used the Portkey to travel there ourselves. The stone arch - you did a horrendous sketch of it on Monday, I believe-" he drawled, "Had more Sumerian runes on it, inside this circular magical barrier. We recorded the runes and decided to return to the castle to decode them - and the rest of my memory is blank until Tuesday, including the return journey to the castle. So I'm missing most of Sunday and Monday, but I gathered we were doing research on the runes, before we knew about the fucking memory loss."

She blinked at him - it was unusual for him to swear. He was really tired.

"I don't remember any of that..." she murmured worriedly. "So... we definitely didn't do anything with this magical barrier when we went through with the Portkey, though?" she asked cautiously, "I don't know - activate it or something...?" her sketch of the stone arch on the previous diary page didn't ring any bells whatsoever - it was extremely creepy to see her own work without any memory of doing it.

"I don't think so," Riddle sighed. "We might have, by mistake I suppose... but we were careful. As I recall, we only took note of the runes, and then left."

Amalia flicked back to the earliest pages. "So that's your last memory... but we packed up the camp, returned to the castle, and spent the whole of Sunday together in the Library researching these runes. According to these notes, when we slept that night - Sunday night - the first incidence of memory loss occurred. We couldn't remember any of the research we'd done the previous day. We tried to figure out what was happening by going over the notes we had written, but no luck. We stayed up all night on Monday wondering if it was a gradual thing, but no further memory loss occurred..." she flicked a few pages forward and winced, "But on Tuesday night we slept. And then I attacked you when we woke up on Wednesday morning, thinking you had cursed me-"

"Jumping to conclusions as usual," he sneered, but without his usual zeal.

"So, it's evident something was triggered when we started studying these Stones." she stated, "And the result is a curse which has two effects: first we can't make any new memories - they get erased as soon as we sleep, and second, we are losing the memories before we 'activated' the curse as well - to what end, it is impossible to know. Ugh, this is complicated."

Riddle grimaced. "You have to admit it's a very effective trap - everyone needs sleep at some point. Why try and prevent us from continuing, when you could just make us forget what we are doing in the first place?"

"Indeed... Who in Merlin's name came up with this damned quest?" Amalia growled. She tried to put her frustration to one side for the moment - they had to focus. "So, that's our working theory... Did we manage to translate the runes?"

"It's in the diary."

She raised an eyebrow at him.

"Tch." he rolled his eyes. "To the best of our knowledge, it translates to 'Pass through the doorway, do not look, do not listen. Speak to find the way'. But we agreed this doesn't seem relevant to our more immediate problems - we didn't pass through the archway yet or cross over the barrier."

Amalia puzzled over this for a while.

Pass through the doorway, do not look, do not listen. Speak to find the way...

Yup, nope, she had no clue what that meant. And it didn't seem to help them. "It seems quite obvious this curse, or whatever it is, is designed to 'encourage' us to go through the barrier - to continue the quest blind." she eventually surmised. "With no idea whether continuing would even halt the memory loss. It could make it worse. I mean, the memory loss could just be another test we HAVE to solve before continuing... Should we take the risk and go through the barrier? And risk - I don't know, another curse? Worse?"

Riddle looked sour. "After you."

She sighed. "Does it feel like maybe... just maybe, we're a little in over our heads here, Tom?"

He was silent for a moment, scowling at the carpet. But then he seemed to rally and his tired, dark eyes swept up to catch hers in a steady gaze. "It's not over yet, Gray," he vowed. "I found something that could help, this morning." He turned to the pile of books and parchment on the table next to him, and drew out a volume titled "Subtleties of Memorie" and passed it to her, along with a few scrolls covered in his notes in his neat handwriting.

Amalia scanned the cover - the book was by Mnemone Radford - and she recognised it. The writer was the famous Obliviator who had invented the Memory Charm in the late 1500s. For obvious reasons, Amalia had extensively researched Memory Charms in all their forms, and their history. A chapter was bookmarked - she leafed her way to it.

"Not a solution, unfortunately," Riddle cautioned, "It extensively explains how to perform variations of Memory Charms, and even how to block them. But nothing about undoing the spell, beyond 'don't get hit in the first place'."

"I'm not surprised," Amalia said drily, "If there was an easy way to undo Memory Charms, I would have found it already."

"But it does mention a method of storing memories." Riddle continued. "Just a passing mention, really - but using the technique described, we could transfer our memories into a receptacle... It won't stop the loss, but we can at least restore memories if we need to sleep. I'm confident we could figure this out in a few more days, if we had the time without erasing our progress each night."

Flicking through the scrolls Riddle had passed with the book, Amalia could see how he'd patched together some complicated-looking charm diagrams and footnotes. It was very high-level stuff. She bit her lip. "Do you think we can do it?"

"Of course," he said, with no trace of humility. "But there's only one issue... the book details the theory, but not the application. I've tried my best to piece it together, but this isn't the kind of magical working you can complete with guesswork. We need to be sure we're doing it correctly before we try."

"Do you have a receptacle in mind?"

Riddle pointed at the diary.

Amalia nodded. "That makes sense. Hm..."

She paused, biting her lip. It was a tough situation - but they were rapidly reaching the point at which they could no longer keep this secret. "I know you don't want to hear this, but let's just ask a teacher for help? Dumbledore could-"

"Absolutely not!" Riddle immediately snapped, glaring.

Amalia frowned, "We really don't have time to get up to an Obliviator's level..."

"Not him."

Amalia rolled her eyes. "Fine! What about Professor Merrythought?"

He huffed in irritation, but Amalia took the lack of an immediate denial as acquiescence.

"Sounds like we have a plan." Amalia rose to her feet. "I'll go speak to Merrythought - I'll be as vague as possible about the circumstances... You keep working on it."

Riddle nodded.

Amalia looked around. "By the way, where is everyone?" she asked.

"Quidditch match."

"Ah." Another mystery solved.

She could think of nothing more boring than watching sports, though she imagined Callidora was enjoying it. But a quiet castle it was lucky for them; Professor Merrythought, being rather elderly, was not likely to be there. She could find and speak to him without an audience.