The way back from the feast was uneasy. The glassy dining car had been magically enlarged with panoramic views of the star-spangled heavens and countryside at night, distant towns and cities glittering as they rolled by. In contrast, the long, narrow corridors were full of shades and whispers now. She felt someone watching in the shadows. Whoever it was they were fearful of her, she could feel it. She turned quickly in the direction of the prickles under her skin but saw no one. In the distance, she heard the click of a door and a sharp intake of breath. Under the light of her wand, the moving pictures on the carved panels seemed to speak of sinister happenings.
Her cabin seemed a little lonely after the company that evening. As she closed the door into her own world, a title winked at her from the bookshelf; ‘Que Vestir O Verde Brilhante’, written by Castelobruxo Herbologists, Catina Faron & Moises Navarro. It had been one of Seamus’ favourites. With a pang she thought how much her twin would have appreciated the day; Rosa the dog’s escapade, the glimpse of the famous Hufflepuff herbologist’s home, Cordelia Fancourt’s bonhomie, the channel crossing, and all that endless sea and sky.
She opened the safe, touched the last letter he had written her, then placed the family pensieve on the nightstand. It was hewn out of an ancient occamy shell, pure silver and sea tarnished. The occamy crest of copper and bronze was adorned by stones and engravings, some which seemed to come from forgotten alphabets. Inside memories whispered to her, some in unknown languages as if awoken by the lives of those who had traveled before her as well as the adventures yet to be written. There were times when it seemed to hum and sing to her. A low thrum no one else heard. When she was lonely she would go to sleep listening to its chorus of interlaced reminiscences.
It is the custom to bury pensieves with their owners or to empty them, but family legend has it that this pensieve had been washed up at the feet of a great, great aunt three days after burying it with her sister at sea. This tale went on to say it had washed up centuries before that in a stream. It must have belonged to an ancestor, the magical basin had long been enchanted so that only relatives could see or pass it on to the next generation. This she knew to be true. A permanent tongue binding curse prevented anyone from divulging its existence to others. When it appeared to someone, they had become irrevocably family. Yet only those who had the gift of magic could use it. When Lizzie O’ Brien had first become ill with Seer’s fever and had to go to St. Mungo’s hospital, she had given it to her children as a way to stay close and guide them with her memories even when she could not be there in person. It was their families greatest secret and its greatest secret keeper.
She tenderly kissed the crooning occamy’s head and bade goodnight to those loved ones whose memories she carried with her after they were gone. She took out the second pensieve. This was grey stone and pewter and carried the ministry of magic logo. It was enchanted with all the usual muggle repelling and undetectable charms. This was used for collecting, examining and organising the memories and predictions Lindsay collected for the department of mysteries. She raised her wand to her temple and siphoned off the information she had gathered during the day. The recollections spun like threads of silver silk; like dewy spiders’ webs shimmering in mist, then swirled with those collected in different times and places. Soon, she’d examine the webs and patterns that would begin to form. For now, the threads swirled in and out of one another in the bowl, fizzing and popping occasionally when memories connected. Images raced by on the surface like the faces and landscapes reflected in the windows of the rushing train.
She set them aside, remembering what her mother had taught her. “Don’t get lost in the visions of others or in yesterdays,” she heard her mother say “and forget to live your own life, today.”
Lindsay, back in her here and now, sighed, opened her ministry logbook and began to write. As she did so the words disappeared into the page, leaving nothing behind them;
Report for 16th October 1919,
No known seers on the Eagle. No readings that are obviously directly related to the primary mission but there is a ‘temperature’ building. I have collected several samples which have been stored in the pensieve. Will proceed as planned. Do we know anything about the Gaunts or the Filch family, in particular, Ebonine Filch or his father?
There are eyes on me. I am not the only ministry official on this train. Can you confirm there are Aurors on this route, and who they might be tailing?
She waited for a beat, as her words vanished, then fresh words appeared on the page. A response to her question had come from her department;
We will liaise with relevant departments and tell you what we can. Ebonine Filch is rumored to be compiling a book on ancient and original wizarding family trees. What is your interest in him?
Lyndsay scratched out her reply by wandlight, the distant hooting of owls in her ears;
A bone pipe, possibly human and a memory of a father who does not like non-magic people, especially those in his own family.
For a long time, there was no reply, so Lyndsay continued:
He seems particularly interested in one witch on the train who is a skilled Occulmens.
Still nothing but the haunting voices of restless birds and the rattle of the train.
So, if the Auror office isn’t looking into him, perhaps they should?
The reply came quickly;
Thank-you for your information. Be assured we will liaise with the relevant departments. You should be aware Ebonine Filtch is a friend to the ministry. Are there other people of interest?
A ‘friend to the ministry’, Lyndsay thought to herself wryly. Well, if that was not a warning off, nothing was. She would have to watch the bone-pipe smoking wizard like a hawk but do so quietly. She re-read the message and decided on how to answer the last question. She began writing again:
What do we know of the Gaunts? His children are scared of him.
A minute before receiving the response;
Scared children do not provide reliable evidence.
Lyndsay inhaled very sharply before writing her reply;
Respectfully, children’s fear should always be enough to, at the very least, take note of.
‘Note taken.’ was the terse response from the faceless ministry official to whom she submitted these reports. Lyndsay was pacing the floor when more writing appeared:
There have been reports that a dog viciously attacked one of our ministry witches yesterday at King’s Cross. They made off with a wand carrying classified information. Have you seen such an animal on the train?
‘No’ was Lyndsay’s immediate reply. Well, she hadn’t actually seen her on the train, so it wasn’t a lie exactly. She added that she had witnessed an incident in which an entirely unharmed ministry official had chased a small dog down the platform. There had been no response. After signing off she pondered the exchange. She had wondered why Dorethia seemed to be fretting about passing the dog-chewed wand on instead of getting rid of it. Now she considered there might be important, ‘classified information’ a ‘Prior Incantantum’ spell might uncover. She’d instinctively trusted the trio of elders who had befriended her, and trust given quickly was rare for her. Despite this, she was already aware that the two women had secrets.
And, whatever veiled warnings she had been given to the contrary, she would remain watchful around Ebonine Filtch, the Gaunts and others, including that peculiar bronze-haired wizard, Percy Fleamont and the newlyweds.
Lindsay sunk back into velvet cushions inhaling a scent of hyacinths, feeling the faint echoes of the honeymoon hopes of this cabin’s previous residents. Hot cocoa and a sugared violet had been left for her by a thoughtful house elf. As she sipped the creamy concoction her eyes flicked back to the occamy pensieve. She never traveled far without it. In part, this was because it was important to be able to separate the thoughts and recollections of others from her own. Pensieves also made it easier to organise and evaluate ideas and predictions, like books in a treasured library of forgotten minds.
A kindly teacher in her first year at Hogwarts had taught her to use her pensieve when her visions or other people’s worries and opinions were disturbing her school work. It held the past hopes of her mother and great aunt’s younger selves, their struggles and loves. It held Lizzie O’Brien’s glimpses of her journey into motherhood and of she, Seamus and Syd, their cousin, Aunty Edith and Uncle Harris.
The pensieve was stirring, tiny bubbles rising from the surface to hang in the air like moons. She reached out her hand to hold one. It broke upon her touch, cascading up her arm and into her mind, taking her back to her mother. No longer a series of bright fragments and shadows that can be the echoes of early childhood. These were complex journeys seen through the thoughts of those she loved, woven into a patchwork of broken time.
Some of Lizzie’s ancestors, the McMillans, had washed up in Ireland during the Scottish clearances and two of their daughters had married local Irish lads whose history they said was tied ever to the Emerald Isle, but things had always been strained as they will be when the powerful take land from one group to give to another group they’ve already taken land from. And yet the years went by, threads woven then frayed, like the ancient family tapestries Aunt Enid would clean lovingly each spring. Lyndsay had once asked her mum to explain the troubles to which her mother had replied: “I’ve never known, my treasure, but the whole gubu has always felt like a game of wizard’s chess to the likes of me, with not one of us knowin’ the hands moving us around the board.”
Her mother and aunt had lived in a community that had never really recovered from the potato famines. Poverty and the memory of it had plagued them for generations. The sight of edible food shipped off while people there had to live on a failed crop of blighted roots were haunting memories that one never spoke of. Muggle relations grew more strained during the Great Hunger. Those who knew of the family’s magic did not understand why they did not conjure the community more food. They did not understand what the wizarding world knew through Gamps’ Law of Elemental Transfiguration; that food could not be created from nothing nor transfigured from unrelated items. The magical community helped in the few ways they were able but they had also struggled and suffered persecution.
Lyndsay’s mother Lizzie Anne had been the youngest. Never physically strong, Lizzie was often thought to be away with the fairies. Sometimes she quite literally was. Other times she was traveling through others’ emotions, something that affected her greatly during hard times and traveled with her after. She was mostly joyful but when the clouds came they bought storms. Her elder sister, Enid, who was quick-witted and steady, would never show signs of magic except for a fierce empathy some non-magic people have which is more healing than a vat of skellegrow. The two were exceptionally close. Two peas in a pod.
Enid married a fisherman when she was 19 and moved to his Scottish homeland with him. By that time a young and beautiful Lizzie had caught the eye of the postmaster’s son, Fred O’Brien, and was working out how to tell him she was a witch. She’d told him after they’d married and it had not gone down well. Lizzie had stayed with the intention of raising a family the way she and her sister had been raised, with one foot in each world, magic, and non-magic. Fred had other plans. As soon as the twins learned to walk they started showing signs of magic. Fred would try to bully their nature away with gruff words, everyday judgments, and the withdrawal of any sign of affection. When Lindsay and Seamus turned three they and their mother went to live with her sister, Edith and her husband Uncle Harris.
Uncle Harris, Lyndsay thought with a sigh and a sad smile. He’s often been away at sea but his ever-present warmth was ever with his family. He’d bring back stories of monsters as Enid cut back his grizzled red beard by the fire, complaining it was “stiff with salt” to which he’d grin and declare himself “Neptune of the seas.” Her quick reply was always peppered with laughter. Lizzie would say he’d probably seen Merpeople and he’d try to convince the children he was one. Like Enid, Harris, though not magic himself, encouraged and delighted in signs of it in his niece and nephew. He quickly realized neither they or his own young son, Syd, were interested in net-mending and long nights and days at sea but made them toys and trinkets from shells and rope and spun the most fantastical tales.
One day their Neptune did not return; a shipwreck not far from the coast had claimed him to his other home. Young Syd was rocked to sleep by his Aunt Lizzie, his cousins nearby as they told him the story of the Merpeople and how his daddy was with them now. Endid talked to Harris still now in her daily activities and his warmth was still in the house.
Lindsay smiled as a rush of affection for her aunt swelled. Mrs. Edith McGilliguddy. Strict as she was, had loved the children as she loved her own son. It was Aunty Enid, widow, muggle and close friend of various saints, who helped encourage Seamus in his herbology and guided Lindsay in managing her emotions through her art. When the youngest of the brood, Syd, expressed the will to go into law, Enid worked and saved to make it happen. Meanwhile, Seamus and Lyndsay had mixed healing potions for local pets to help raise money for their cousin’s studies. Enid, alongside Lizzie, made sure all three children had a foothold in both the magical and non-magic worlds with an unswayable conviction that “The Good Lord makes all of us of equal worth. He can find what he’s doing better than we folk, ye ken.”
So, they had grown together in a house that smelt of wood, old books, brewed herbs, singed spells and the wild animals Seamus, and Syd took in, much to the joy of Lizzie and the pretend annoyance of the house-proud Enid. Their functioning family had two women at the helm, an uncle though gone was ever with them and three and cousins growing up as siblings. It had been a loved life, if sometimes a hard one, Lindsay thought as she lay on the velvet covers of her cabin bed in Wildsmith carriage. She had to keep reminding herself where she was. Her mother thoughts had got lost in time before. She had lingered too long in someone’s past, regaining consciousness just in time to fight off Dementors. She advised the children to always have something sweet and stodgy on hand to eat in case of an emergency, preferably chocolate. “Memories are akin to occamies,” she would tell them, dishing out slices of steaming clootie pudding to eager hands. “Like those mythical beasts, they’ll fill all available space if you let them to it.”
Lizzie Anne was a Ravenclaw who was quick to think and slow to anger. These were character traits she’d passed to her children, but she would often have visits to St. Mungos Hospital where healers would skillfully retrieve her and untangle her thoughts. At these times a quiet abstracted distance would occupy Lizzie’s eyes between moments of laughter. Her daughter felt it, as did Syd, who had inherited the quiet, fierce empathy of both his parents.
Lindsay popped another bubble, letting the memories swirl together once more in the pensive, smiling at her latest memories of Syd, Lizzie and Enid on a picnic by the sea. As the waves lapped idly at her window she drew their faces. Her art, when she still made it, breathed with life, literally lifting off the pages to blend and blur with the world around her. Reality shimmered with its colours and altered in imperceptible ways that could change the course of history. While sad or angry she tried not to create her artwork. People feared a power that they could not name and she was often ridiculed even within the magical community. This is of course far worse for someone who can hear other’s thoughts and sense their feelings. She kept her powers hidden.
Another bubble floated to the surface of the pensive to rise and break over her in a wave. She was entering Ravenclaw tower for the first time. Watching the owls swoop over the astronomy tower. This had become a refuge for her, a place where she and her unusual gifts were welcomed. She had made close friendships with those who celebrated their diverse talents, first within her house, then outside it. Few of those she grew to trust seemed to mind the lengthy conversations she had with her brother, Seamus, though they could only hear her side of their talks. Seamus O’Brien had been sorted into Hufflepuff due to his love and care of plants and creatures. Yet the two spoke as often as they ever had, though they lived in separate houses.
Lindsay drew her wand and syphoned away the amassing memories, transporting her back into the gently rocking train. She touched the wooden table before her, willing herself back into the present. Somewhere she could hear a cornet and its player finding their voice but she could not quite surface from the glimmers of her family’s past. She did not know how long she sat there, both lulled and kept awake by the rythmn of the train jolting over the tracks, her hand on the table rooting part of her in the present. She was dimly aware of someone outside her door, of hushed voices and the sound and feel of the train come slowly to a stop. They had arrived at Porte de Versailles.