All Hallows Eve - The Day of The Dead

It's funny, she thinks, that everyone seems to go on about they day as usual. It's funny that she probably ought to be doing the same but can't seem to, can't seem to for fear. She wonders when she became this frail, frightened thing when she used to be so strong.

'Mrs. Potter!' The redhead turns around quickly, her eyes wide. Then she smiles.

'Alice!' She wants to give her friend a hug, but isn't sure if it's all right to do so. Do the insane like hugs? she wonders. The two women stare at one another for a moment. 'How are you?' She asks then, because the silence is growing and it scares her.

She winces inwardly. Everything scares her these days. Silence, noise, getting up in the morning, not getting up in the morning, food, starvation...life. Dying. Everything is suddenly sinister and terrifying and it swirls around her angrily because it can and it wants her to know that it's there.

'I'm sorry if I'm early for the party.' She seems genuinely apologetic, and the redhead doesn't have the heart to correct her. To tell her that there is no party, that she's not late, that her life has been ripped from her. 'My mum sends her love, as usual. But honestly, that women never gets out anymore - go figure, with the bum leg, but still, you'd think that she'd at least try. Personally, I think she's just getting lazy in her own age. Honestly.'

The redhead laughs. 'Maybe that's it,' she agrees. 'Old people these days.' A wink is passed between the pair, and suddenly Alice sighs.

'Where is Frank?' She asks abruptly. 'Lily? Where is Frank?'

The redhead looks at her friend with sad eyes. 'Is it a bad day, Alice?' She asks softly. 'Do you want me to go?'

It scares her, being in the room. With Alice. Alice, tortured into insanity, and yet having those... moments when she is so normal and it makes her think that maybe everything is going to be okay. But it's just as frightening, to leave, and go out into a world where everything seems hopeless.

'No!' Alice cries, seeming distressed. 'Don't go, Lily! Don't go! Where's Frank? I can't find him, I can't find him, I need to find Frank - 'She frantically begins to look under her pillows for her husband. 'Frank!' She wails. 'Frank, where are you?'

In the bed beside her - right in front of poor Alice's eyes - her husband sleeps. The redhead feels her heart wrench from her chest. 'Oh, Alice,' she murmurs, and the sound seems to distract the brunette from her frantic searching.

'Don't be sad, Lily,' she says brightly. 'I'll find Frank, you get James, we'll get out of here, and everything will be happy again. All right?'

Tears well up in Mrs. Potter's eyes, and she nods. She doesn't trust herself to speak, because she's afraid to cry. Afraid to be weak.

And at the same time, so afraid to be strong.

The names seem to have triggered Alice's angst, because she begins shouting worriedly again. 'Frank! Frank! Where's Frank? And the baby - the baby - I need the baby - where is my baby?'

The redhead's eyes water.

Neville.

Poor Neville Longbottom, in the psychiatric ward for injuries. Poor Neville, suffering from the same curse that has done this to his parents, the same wand used, the same mouth curving those fateful words. Mrs. Potter takes a deep breath and reminds herself that she used to be strong, and that these things used to make her sympathetic, not terrified.

'Alice, Frank and the baby are fine,' she whispers, grasping her friend's hand. 'All right? They're fine.' Alice's eyes are wide, begging for the truth.

'I'm afraid for the baby,' she whispers. 'Frank - Frank is tough. Frank is tough. But the baby, the baby... the baby is dead, isn't it? Isn't the baby dead, Lily? Didn't they kill it? Didn't they kill my little baby boy?'

The redhead shakes her head. 'Neville is fine, love,' she says firmly, although it hurts and terrifies her to lie. It hurts and terrifies her to tell the truth. Alice cocks her head to the side, slightly confused and asks, 'Neville? Who is Neville, Lily?'

Mrs. Potter smiles with trembling lips. 'No one, dear. No one at all. The baby is all right. Frank is right here, can't you see? Right beside you. Look, Alice.'

The distraught woman looks, and a smile creases across her features. For an instant, she seems normal, she seems right, and the redhead's breath hitches in her throat and almost asks - Alice? Alice, are you back?

But she doesn't, because she's afraid that the answer will be no.

She's afraid it will be yes, and she'll have to tell her friend all that's been going on and everything that's happened and about her child.

She wonders if Neville will wind up in this room with them. She wonders if Neville will be insane, too. He was under the Cruciatus Curse just as long as his parents. She bites her lip, her chin trembling. But Neville had to be strong, he had to be, she couldn't lose the last thread to her darling Alice...

Frank Longbottom stirs from his sleep. 'Where are the flowers?' He asks immediately. 'Where are your flowers, Alice? They are always right there, right by my bed, every day, fresh ones, why aren't they there? Who stole them?'

The redhead winces. She'd forgotten the flowers. 'It's my fault, dear,' she says to Frank, who looks frantic. 'The flowers clashed horribly with the wallpaper, I promise to bring back some more later. Is that all right?'

Frank nods sullenly. Alice smiles at him. 'Hullo,' she says brightly. 'I'm Alice.' He smiles jovially back at her.

'Hello, Alice. I'm Frank. My wife's name is Alice, you know. She puts flowers on my bedside table, every day. Every single day.'

Mrs. Potter feels her hands shaking and forces a smile. 'Well, you're a lucky man, Frank,' she says kindly. 'Wish my spouse did stuff like that for me.'

And then her heart breaks, because it all comes rushing back to her - everything, everything - and suddenly she is so afraid and doesn't feel like being strong anymore. Alice pats her hand comfortingly and smiles.

'Don't be sad, Lily. I can't find my husband and my baby, but I'm happy. You see? I'm happy. Because Frank would never let them get my baby.'

Frank looks puzzled. 'But I don't even - '

'Not you,' Alice interrupts impatiently. 'My Frank.' They both nod at one another, understanding, and seem to be able to communicate without speaking. They both trade off speaking, they laugh at the same jokes, and say the same things at the same time before laughing.

The redhead feels her eyes water, because her own isn't home anymore and she hates to think that she'll never get to have that sort of communication again. And everything is so dangerous for her, for everyone, and she is always so afraid. He is never home to tell her it's all right, and she wonders if it's because of this that she's always so terrified, or if it's because of this.

'They got my baby, you know,' Alice informs Frank. 'They came into our house, Frank's and mine, and they cursed us. It hurt - hurt so bad - and they got the baby. But Frank promised me he'd take care of it, promised me. Said on his life, he'd keep the baby safe. So he will. I'll bet you.'

Mrs. Potter laughs through trembling lips because the voice is so matter-of-fact, so innocent, so faithful. And she wants to cry because she knows that Frank did give his life, gave his very mind, for "the baby". That he kept his promise to his wife and she'll never, ever know it.

She tries to remember what the last promise her own husband made was. Did he keep it?

'Are you still sad, Lily?' Frank asks, concerned. 'Honestly, that's a shame. A damned shame. James wouldn't want you sad, I'm sure. He's mad on you, you know. Mad. Always used to talk about you, in the Common Room, in the dormitories. "Oh, Lily this," and "Lily that." Talked about you more than he talked about Quiddi - Alice! Alice! No! Alice - get off of her! Stop that! S - ' He lets out a pained wail and covers his face.

The redhead gently shushes him as his face contorts. It's horrible, but he is most sane when he is recalling that day. The day when he had it all ripped from his very fingers.

She wants to cry, because so much as been ripped from her, too. From everyone.

'Alice is safe, Frank,' she assures him softly. 'You saved her, don't you remember? You stepped in front of the curse, and saved her! She's living happily now, with your child. She misses you though, Frank, she misses you an awful lot. So you have to be quiet now, she'd want you to be.'

Alice looks on in sympathy and pats his leg. It seems to calm him, slightly. 'Didn't you hear Lily?' She asks. 'Your wife is fine. She's fine and with your little boy. Lucky man. So stop crying. You're Alice wouldn't want to see you this way, now would she?' The scolding is light and gentle, and Frank smiles at the deranged woman.

'Yes.' He says simply. Mrs. Potter doesn't know if it's yes, she wouldn't want to see him so distraught, or yes, he is lucky, or yes, he ought to stop crying...

And she looks away, because they are so close to one another, so close, and they don't even know it. They will spend the rest of their lives living in fear, in worry, waiting for the day when the spouse and child will come home to them, and all along it's right under their noses...

And she's so afraid that it will happen to her, too. She already feels that she is losing her mind.

Everyday, she visits. She seems to be a strange kind of reminder to the two of them, and they are the most normal with her. And each day, she leaves the room shaking and afraid, but knows he won't be home to comfort her and tell her that she's not alone.

She wonders, vaguely, if she is.

'Frank - Frank - ' Alice has gone off again, and the redhead knows that it is not a good day. If Alice goes on too long, Frank will follow. And their anguished cries will echo through the room, and the hallways, and everyone will wince and looked pained, and try to drown out the noise. 'Frank, where are you? Where are you? I can't see you, I can't see - '

'Alice, it's all right!' She says fervently, as Frank looks on in pity that is slowly turning into fear. 'Alice, stop crying, please stop crying, everything is fine - '

'The baby - the baby - '

'The baby is fine, everyone is fine, alive, well, you're going home soon - '

'Where's my baby? Where is Frank? Lily? Lily?'

She's afraid because she can't help her friends, and because soon Frank will go off and the sounds will echo and she'll cringe and it will hurt her ears and she'll remember Hogwarts and the memories will hurt her and she'll want to cry but be afraid, be afraid -

'Shut up!' She finally screams. 'Shut up! Just shut up! All right? All right? The baby is FINE! You hear me? FINE! The GODS-DAMNED BABY IS FINE! Frank is SITTING RIGHT BE-BLOODY-SIDE YOU! Why can't you see him? Why don't you recognize your own ruddy husband?!' She feels the tears streaking down her cheeks.

'Frank! Frank, look out, where is the baby, protect the baby, Frank, protect my son - '

'Alice! Alice! No! Stop! Stop that! Don't touch her!'

'Frank - '

'Alice - '

'The baby - '

'I won't let them get our son - '

And she cries harder because it all makes sense, because the conversation might have been the exact one they'd had that night as they'd tried to keep the Death Eaters from getting in. Short, cut off sentences in desperation, the way hers had been, and maybe Alice had taken Frank's hand and cried because she was afraid and everyone was afraid and life was so delicate, like a little house of cards that was tumbling down around them, all fifty-two little squares before their very eyes.

'Stop crying! Stop crying!' She shrieks hysterically, unable to keep herself from doing so. 'Godsdamnit all, Alice, Frank, look at me, look at me! Can't you see me? Can't you see that everything is all right? Can't you bloody see? We're all in trouble, we're all scared, but it's going to be all right - it has to be all right - it has to, because I won't be able to go on if it doesn't - '

'Save him, Frank, save the child - '

'Nothing will get our son, Alice, nothing - '

'I love you, don't leave me, I'm so afraid - '

'Don't be afraid, Alice, I love you, I'll protect you - '

And the tears are falling fast and slow and making large puddles beneath her feet that converge with Alice's and it's a big pool and she is going to drown it, she just knows it, she knows that she is going to die here, in this room, with two crazy people shouting at echoes of the past and she'll never see Harry again, never, never -

'Mrs. Potter, shhhh, it's all right...' The redhead turns her eyes to the kind nurse and tries to stop, tries to stop for her poor sake. The nurse is so young, so young and so innocent, and it's all she can to do try and keep her that way.

'I'm fine, I'm fine,' she mumbles. 'Got carried away for a moment, there. Feels like I'm losing my bloody mind.'

The nurse smiles a strange, ironic sort of smile and nods obligingly. 'Would you like to return to your room now?'

The redhead nods, because it's so kind for the nurse to offer her a room after such a hard day and she just wants to curl up and sleep away all the horrible things going on around her, and the shouting, and the crying - the baby; Frank; Alice - and wake up refreshed and go about her day as usual.

The kindly young nurse leads the distraught women through the hallways and people glance at her funny but she ignores them because she must look a mess. The nurse opens a door for her and she tumbles into the room - white, white, white - and falls tiredly onto the bed. She stares at the ceiling and waits for sleep to claim her, no matter how slow it is in coming, no matter how slow...

The nurse leaves quietly, shaking her head. Tears glisten in her eyes as she watches the redheaded woman drift off into blissful sleep.

'Well, that was eventful,' her colleague, Joseph, comments wryly. 'They haven't all gotten so riled up at once in ages.'

'It's Halloween, Joe.' The nurse says softly. 'Halloween, he was taken from her on Halloween.' His eyes turn sad and sorry and he puts a hand on her shoulder.

'I'm sorry,' he whispers. 'I'll just tell the visitors to go away, then, shall I?' She nods and stares hard at the floor, wondering what it felt like, being insane.

She blinks back tears. 'Hey - Joe?' She calls. He turns back to her, sympathy in his dark eyes. He's seen too much, too, she realizes. They all have. 'She never corrects them.'

It breaks her heart. Slowly, piece by piece, her heart is wrenched from her gut. She feels tears pouring out of her own eyes - so many tears in the past few years, too many - and Joe wraps his arms around her as she sobs. 'All the time, she never corrects them when they call her Lily. Does she know, Joe? Does she know who she is?' She grasps his shirt in her fists, squeezing. 'And she's always so afraid, so afraid, she's gone crazy from heartbreak and it terrifies her - '

Joe shushes her gently. 'She lost a lot,' he agrees. 'She lost a lot.'

'She'll never get better, Joe - we all lost a lot, but she'll never get better! And you never knew her when she was - when she was right - her eyes would dance and laugh and she had this incredible knack for sarcasm and Quidditch and getting herself into embarrassing situations and - '

'Shush, love, this won't do you any good - '

' - And she'd talk her way out of them,' she continues, ignoring him, because she hasn't said it all yet and she needs to. 'And once she set her heart on something, she just bloody did it, and I think that's why he loves her so much, he loved her so much, and she'd loved him since she was so little but made him think otherwise for so long and they were going to have to many children, so many, they were going to have twelve, they had the names, they had the house, all they needed was the time - ' She breaks off, her wails too much. When she finally is able to speak again, she looks up into the empathetic eyes of her friend. 'Why didn't they have time, Joe?' She asks quietly. 'What did she do - what did they do - to have it ripped from her so mercilessly? Why not me, or you, or Malfoy?'

He shrugs sadly. 'I don't know,' he whispers. 'No one ever will. But what happened, happened. It's just the way it goes.'

It hurts, because it's the truth. But she nods and steps away, wiping her eyes. 'Go tell the Weasleys that she's had a rough day. Remind them that it's Halloween. Remind them. I know them, they'll understand.' Joe disappears down the hallway and the nurse watches him go before leaning limply against the wall.

Inside, the redheaded woman sleeps, and dreams that she is being held by a green-eyed, messy haired Gryffindor with a lightening-bolt scar on his forehead.

Hermione's eyes fill with tears once more.

'Oh, Ginny,' she whispers.

A/N: In case you didn't get it, Ginny was insane, too. It wasn't Lily. Ginny'd lost Harry, and gone crazy from grief. (Or maybe she'd had Crucio used on her, too...?) I know, I know. Depressing. Deal with it. ;) Review! Review! Revieeeeeeew!