A Nightmare

by Persephone Lupin


Chapter 1: How it began

Everything was gray, gray as if seen through a veil of mist, after what had happened to her that dreadful night, the night of the Yule ball. And it had started out so promising. She was the beauty-queen with her plain dress of shimmering green silk matching perfectly her startling emerald eyes, and her full, curly hair like a halo of shining copper around her delicate face. For the first time in her life she had had the feeling that her name indeed did fit her, this name out of ancient legend which she had always feared she would never live up to. Helena – the beautiful queen of Mykene. For her sake a 10-years battle was fought and many brave heroes had fallen, the proud city of Troy crumbled to ashes. She had loved this story, but had never felt really comfortable with the name her mother had chosen for her, not until that special evening in December.

The young man who had asked her to the ball was Prince Charming himself, the handsomest and most gifted boy in school, the dream of every girl from 1st to 7th grade, the admired Hogwart's headboy. She had never ever expected him to ask her to the ball since he was a Slytherin and she a  "mudblood." Slytherins didn't go out with  "mudbloods," especially not when they happened to be Gryffindors. But he was different, he had asked her, and she had been so proud and happy!

The few days till the ball floated by like a dream in pink. She had felt radiant. And the ball was a dream, a dream of candlelight, an explosion of colors, of delicious scents and tastes, and over all the music and the light but firm grip of his hand around her waist. She had always known that a dream would not last forever, that she would wake up to reality again after some hours or days. But this time, there was no awakening, her dream had turned into a never-ending nightmare.

After the last dance was danced, the last snack was eaten and the last candle had burned down, her prince had asked her to go outside with him and walk in the garden. It was a wonderful winter night, the stars were shining like diamonds on a black dress of softest velvet, and everything was covered with a virgin layer of yet untouched, sparkling white snow. The green light that emanated from the tip of his wand and served as a torch evoked an atmosphere of unreality, of fairy.

When they had reached the shore of the frozen lake, he dragged her into his arms and kissed her. And though she was almost 18, it was the first kiss in her life. His kisses were gentle and delicious at the beginning, and she responded quivering with expectation, but then the touch of his lips became more forceful and demanding, and his grip around her turned violent. And when she caught the look in his eyes, she knew that she was lost, that he was evil, a demon from the dark in disguise, a monster with the features of a human being.

Those eyes had already irritated her before, when they had been dancing, pitch-black eyes that had reminded her of dark, empty tunnels. But now, the emptiness was filled with contempt, malice, and seething hatred. Why hadn't she realized that those eyes would never be filled with true love, neither for her nor for anybody else in this world? And she knew the expression in those terrible eyes would haunt her for the rest of her life.

When the evil penetrated her body and soul, everything inside her, the whole universe, froze. The enchanted whiteness of the snow turned into a suffocating death shroud. She couldn't remember how she had come back to the castle and into her bed, and how, the next day, she had managed to pack her things and get on the train to this other world, the world of her muggle-parents. But she had managed somehow.

By the time the Hogwarts-Express had reached London, she had developed a bad fever, and at home was put to bed immediately. There she spent most of the holidays, and she welcomed her influenza because it spared her the trouble of acting as if everything had been normal, a happy reunion of the family after months away in school.

As usual, her elder brother had come home for Christmas, too, but this time he had brought along his young wife. They had married just before Helena had returned to Hogwarts after the summer break, and now Rose was pregnant with their first child. Helena had always loved her brother, though he was not magical at all, and she was truly happy about that he and his wife were so much in love. But to see this happy couple all the time was just too much for her right now. Her sickness was an ideal excuse to separate from the rest of the family, from those who had not the slightest idea about what had happened to her. And they should never know, either.

Funny enough that, even when confronted with her pregnant sister-in-law, it had never occurred to her that she, too, might be with child. Her frequent sickness in the morning when back in Hogwarts, she had blamed on the not less frequent nightmares which plagued her so often. And in her strange state of mind which allowed her to live mechanically, her outer self still perfectly functioning but with her feelings empty and dead, she didn't even notice that she had not had her monthly bleeding for a long time. But now that all the final exams were over and there wasn't much to do anymore in those very last days at Hogwarts, she had consciously felt that strange, wriggling sensation within her womb for the first time. And then she knew.

It was a shock, a second blow that threatened her sanity. Would this nightmare never end? In her agitated mind she imagined the wriggling something inside her was a deadly snake with dark eyes full of loathing, a snake that would consume her from the inside like a parasite, leaving only an empty shell after hatching from its host's dead body. A shudder of rising panic and despair ran down her spine. What should, what could she do?

After the first flash of panic had subsided, Helena tried to think through her situation. She knew she would never be able to love the new life that was growing inside her, Tom Riddle's child. But she was a witch, and quite a good one. There must be some potion that would help her out of this disaster. She had never come across any such receipt yet, but of course she had never had the need to look for one, before. Most probably, there would be something in the restricted section of the library. She had just to invent some story why she needed to search through those files now, after school was almost finished. Professor Dumbledor, the Gryffindor house teacher, she could not ask. He would surely see through her and ask questions. For the last months she had deliberately tried to avoid him, fearing that his kind but powerful blue eyes would look right into her heart and find the terrible secret there which she wanted nobody ever to detect, which she strove so hard to bury in the most remote corner of her sub-conscience. But Professor Dippet, the headmaster, had always signed everything, if she just gave him that special smile of hers …

And now, the potion was ready, simmering golden like honey in her cauldron. It had been quite easy once she had found the right book. No extraordinary ingredients or procedures, but still, it would bring death to the unborn child. There was a risk, of course, the greater the more advanced the pregnancy. And hers was pretty much advanced. If she hadn't lost so much weight after Christmas, she wouldn't have fitted into any of her clothes anymore by now. But as it was, nobody seemed to have noticed anything, not even she herself.

The risk she did not care about. Only nobody ever found out. And if she died as well - what so? The nightmare would have an end, at least.

How much was she supposed to drink? One phial, better make it two. Her hands were shaking as she brought the liquid to her lips, and in spite of the golden color, the taste was bitter, bitter as death. How appropriate. Now she'd have another couple of hours before the potion would take effect. Everything was prepared. She'd go down for dinner. Then spend a while in the Gryffindor common room. Then sneak out to the edge of the forbidden forest. A little way inside, hidden in the shade of an ancient walnut tree, she had left some water, towels, a blanket, and whatever she thought she might need during her ordeal. After everything was over, she would sneak back to the castle and pretend nothing had happened. She had grown quite practiced pretending ... Helena swallowed the last drop of the potion, shuddering at the bitter taste. She closed her eyes trying to calm herself. Then she began cleaning the cauldron. Just time enough to go to the girls' bathroom and refresh herself a bit before going down to dinner, now.

Helena was standing in front of the mirror combing her rich hair, when she suddenly sensed a sharp pain in her womb. But this was impossible, it wasn't time yet, another two, three hours at least till ... - there again, the pain sliced like a burning sword through her body. She crumpled up in agony, trying not to scream, not to panic. But it was no use, her legs gave way, and she sank to the stone floor, writhing with pain and screaming uncontrollably.

How much time had passed she didn't know, seconds or ages, till she heard hurried steps approaching. The bathroom door opened. Through a veil of tears and pain, Helena saw dim figures move towards her, heard the whisper of voices, somebody calling her name - then the world started to turn around as she was cast into a black abyss of never-ending agony.

* * *

She awoke to the mild blue eyes of Albus Dumbledore.

„Helena? You're awake?"

Closing her eyes again, she nodded slowly.

„Why haven't you told me, Helena?" His voice was heavy with sadness.

„I couldn't," she whispered in a half-muffled sob. Her eyes filled with tears and she turned her head towards the white wall of the sick-room.

„Your mother is here to take you home."

„Where ...?"

„She is talking with Mrs. Parsley right now. I'll tell her you are awake." Professor Dumbledore left silently, and shortly after, her mother entered the room.

„Helena, my child, what have you done?" She took her daughter gently into her arms, and Helena wept till she had no tears left.

„It's ok, my darling, no damage done. They found you just in time to save both you and the baby. Don't worry, we'll manage. Everything will be just fine. And I'll have another beautiful grandchild before the summer is over."

* * *

It's too early! Again! And so much pain. Was there nobody there to help her? Mother, where are you? The sword, my baby, it's only August, help ...

But her mother was already by her side, gathering her in her arms and gently stroking her aching back.

"The ambulance will be here in a moment, don't worry, my darling, you'll be fine. Everything will be fine."

The same words again. Again. And again. Everything happening over and over again. The pain, the fear, the shame. How could anything ever be fine? It was a circle, a vicious circle, and she was caught in it, rotating, no way to get out. And again, there was this same black abyss, almost familiar now and welcome because it meant the end of her pain. Was it the end?

A tiny scream woke her up. And again, she found herself in a white hospital room. The pain was almost gone, only a numb feeling in her abdomen and the baby's whimpering reminded her of what had happened. There was her mother smiling at her, and in her arms she was cradling a bundle of blankets which left visible only a mass of fluffy black curls on a very tiny head. Her baby. It was alive after all. Strange, how much resilience such a minute and helpless being could possess. Probably, it all was fate, her destiny, woven on the invisible loom of live for ages ago. A pattern neither she nor anybody else could break. Whether to good or to worse she could not tell. She was so tired...

"Do you want to hold him?" her mother asked softly and stepped beside her bed.

It's a boy, then. 'And she was supposed to love him. But she felt only emptiness and exhaustion.

"Or shall I come back later when you have rested some more?"

Yes, her mother understood. Though she still didn't know the truth.

"No, mom, give him to me. I'd really like to hold him."

Pretend some more, or was it true? Why was everything so confusing, so torn inside her? He felt warm in her arms. How could she not love him? The soft skin, his delicate fingers, tiny nose, his half-opened, searching mouth and tiny nose, the fluffy hair, the long, dark eyelashes...  Suddenly, the baby opened his eyes and Helena gasped. Her hands started to tremble and she had to turn away, almost in shock. Weren't babies supposed to have innocent blue eyes? But no, not his, the serpent's child. No escape from the circle, from the nightmare...

"What is it, Hel? Isn't he a fine little lad? He is a bit underweight, but he was four weeks early. He'll catch up soon enough."

"He... he has his eyes..." Helena whispered to the wall, still trembling.

His eyes. Now she understood. This was no child of love. How could anybody do this to her daughter, her precious, beautiful daughter? And she hadn't seen it. Or had she? Had she deliberately closed her eyes from the truth, didn't want to see it?

"Mom, I can't have him!" It was almost a cry. The boy was gently taken from her limp arms, and she lay back in her pillows, pale and shaken.

"A name?" she heard her mother ask, but she only shook her head as the haunting memory of those hateful black eyes took over her sanity again. No escape...

* * *

Every child has to have a name. And this one surely, too. Her grandson. So, it seemed to be up to her to name him. And to raise him, too, at least until Helena got used to the boy, if this ever came to happen. Her own son had broken with the old family tradition and named his daughter after a flower. But that was to be expected, since he'd always had "green" fingers and now, after having finished his PhD in botany, he worked at the London botanical garden. And, of course, he had fallen in love with a Rose...  She sighed. Both her children had complained about their names, Orestes and Helena, and she herself had never liked her name as a child. Achillea, after the greatest warrior in Greek mythology. She had never felt much of a warrior, though. But those names did carry an inner power, she was certain of that. And this tiny little boy would need a powerful name to protect him Then a Greek name again.

"What about Perseus - Perseus Evans?"

And as she spoke, it was as if the baby smiled in assent.

* * *