CLARTE

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Against a pristine morning—deep, sinking smoke washed out against pale ascending sky—an old battered clock struck seven. The air was crisp and dry as it often is at the end of autumn when branches of great enduring oaks turned bronze and twisting yew trees began to swell with red lantern arils. The clock rang its reminder once again, hollow and dispassionate.

The room housing the clock was a scattered mess, looking very much like thorough burglars had gone through and spilled its contents everywhere. Books laid about in tatters across the floor, accompanying similarly broken glassware and overturned furniture. There had never been much in the spartan room to begin with, but what little was there had all been smashed by the owner in a fit of grief-driven rage. A young wizard in torn black robes sat against the far corner in the midst of rubble. He was messy and unshaven with tracks of dried tears crusted under blue-grey sunken eye sockets.

He had not slept in days, not since—

Defeated and heartbroken, he sat staring at dawn, unable to move. Morning light streamed through the window onto his slumped form. The dawn held nothing for him, it was not even real, only an enchanted portrait made to hide the darkness of the dungeons. Another lie piled upon yet more lies.

The clock chimed one final time and the wizard glanced at it through his long greasy black hair. It would not do to be late to her funeral, to dishonor her memory. But his misery was too much, her presence still too real to him. He could feel her cold stiff body and blank accusing eyes as he pleaded—prayed for her to not leave him to face the world alone.

With a struggling hand, he reached into his pocket and dug out a ring. He could barely summon the strength to keep it upright between long fingers. It was a simple puzzle of silver knots with four tiny brilliantly clear gem stones, one on each metallic band. He had meant it as a gift for her many years ago, purchased with painstakingly saved petty allowance, but she had never permitted him that one gesture.

And now it was too late.

Determined to pull himself together and attend her burial, the young man twisted the ring between his fingers and carefully pulled it apart into four separate pieces. His hands couldn't help but tremble slightly. Touching his wand to his temple, he pulled out a single strand of silvery memory and set it into the first ring piece's gem stone. The stone glowed protesting blue in response. Already, he felt lighter, free to move.

Repeating this process for each of the pieces, he locked away his anguish and resentment so she could be unsullied to him, remaining eternally beautiful in every way. Yearning, rage, sorrow, betrayal, he would get rid of them in due time, once he found deserving owners for them. Unbeknownst to him, his tumult of emotion was deposited along with each memory. With only faint imprints of the thoughts, he felt composed, stoic. However, when he saw the last strand of wispy recollection slip into the final ring piece, his brow immediately furrowed in felt deep regret. Before the tail end of the memory became fully immersed into clear crystal lattice, the wizard hastily tugged it back and returned it to his temple.

This last one was simply too precious. He would permit himself this one indulgence.

His eyes felt hot as he let it return.

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A great field is covered in summer blooms of knee height daisies, as far as the eye can see. The sounds of gentle wind and nectar collecting insects is interrupted by the mellifluous laughter of a young girl. She is running through the field, closely followed by a dark haired boy. He grabs her shoulder and they both plummet down into the daisies.

Beneath the scorching sun, they lay in the field, breathless and exhausted. The boy's arm becomes pinned under the girl's slim weight as she rolls toward him. He can sense the feeling in his hand gradually turning to pins and needles but makes no attempts to move. Turning away from harsh midday light, he studies her profile, her long red hair, her smile. There is a covetous hint in his gaze, as if the sight of her were water and he dying of thirst.

He memorizes every detail, from the way the sun flows over her pale skin to the number of freckles on her cheek. Taken with the way summer dances in her brilliant green eyes, he smiles. She is infinitely beautiful to him, not ephemeral but eternal. A single word from her perfect lips and he would die again and again for her.

The girl finally rolls away to lay of her stomach, much to his disappointment.

"Are you looking forward to fourth year, Severus?" she asks casually.

He nods and fidgets with crushed flower stalks under his arm, eyes never leaving her delicate features.

"I think it'll be the best one yet."

The girl shakes leaves and grit from her red hair as she beams at him.

He sits up and pulls his too-short trousers toward his feet. With hardly a wave, he is suddenly holding an arm full of daisies, a bunch as thick as a tree trunk. The boy hands the bundle over to his friend. It is more an armful of stalks and stunted leaves than flowers, but she looks delighted anyway. Holding the heavy bouquet, she squeezes the stalks with her pale slim arms and the white flowers petals all begin to dance, blinking and spinning. They both laugh in the manner with which young people laugh at secret inside jokes. She places a small kiss on his cheek.

The dark haired boy lets out a content sigh as he shifts and lies back down. Still holding her armful of flowers, the girl lies down opposite him so her feet are by his head.

"Lily, do you think we will be friends forever?"

Her voice rings across the swaying flowers, floating on wind.

"Always, I promise."

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Notes: And thus, my dream ends. Thanks to Lilith (lilygirl101) and Kim (ks51689) for all their help, go read their fics! And thank you, beloveds, for following to the end.