Title: Forget Me Nott
Fandom(s): Harry Potter
Pairing(s): Harry/Theo, (one sided) Harry/Ginny
Written: August 23, 2020
Written For: @Arquenniel
Prompt: I would love to see a Theo Nott/Harry pairing. Maybe part of the Enchantment series.
Warning(s): enchantment, alternate worlds, possible alternate realities, amnesia, loss of self, ambiguous ending, slash (m/m), unhappy marriage
Harry thought they were dreams at first, and perhaps they were.
He would lie in bed next to Ginny, listening to her breathe, and wish he were anywhere but where he was.
At first it was just a vague notion, then it became a little more real with each passing day, with each passing thought.
He would, of course, never abandon his small family. Of course he wouldn’t. He wasn’t that man, he never could be that man, he would never truly want to be. But as the years crept by, as he couldn’t remember the last time making love to his wife felt like love, and then when exactly they had last fucked, he realized that he had sunk into middle-age depression with nothing but the images behind his eyes when he went to sleep.
At first, they were innocuous.
Soil mixed with moss beneath his feet.
A tree root, gnarled and grasping into shadowed sunlight.
The flash of a blue feather just out of the corner of his eye.
It was peace there, in that strange dreamscape behind his mind’s eye. No one bothered him. He could not feel regret, though he certainly never felt love. There was no past—there had never been Hogwarts—never been Voldemort. But likewise there was no future either. He would not turn grayer than he was (if he did, in fact, turn gray at all, here in the dream). He would never smile, but he would never want to frown.
As the years passed he found a silver stream, and sometimes he would wade into it, but he never felt the cold. If, when he woke, his toes were pruned and Ginny—in a pique of early morning emotion—would tell him to put socks on before he went to bed “next time” as his feet were cold.
He never really listened.
Ginny never said it with any expectation of change.
They were beyond that now.
At some point, because Harry couldn’t precisely say when as he never remembered his age when he slept, he realized he’d been in this forest before. The sound of hooves was not entirely unknown. He remembered it—from waking—and so, when one darklit night he emerged out from the Forbidden Forest, he couldn’t be surprised.
Not that he felt surprise. He felt nothing at all when he slept and when he was awake, in the world, a married man with three children, he found he preferred those haze dreams of no emotion or thought to the reality of another day of being “Harry Potter.”
He wasn’t Harry Potter, not really.
Harry Potter was a creation of whispers after the first defeat of Voldemort.
Harry Potter was a dream that could only be realized in the imagination.
Harry Potter was a living legend—but a myth to everyone, to the people, to the papers, to his wife and children.
Harry Potter had never been born, never existed, so he could never die.
When he dreamed he was not only ageless but nameless. He was himself, awkward, gangly a bit, not yet grown. If he had a scar on his head, it was unimportant. If he knew the color of his eyes, he wouldn’t remember that they were the same bottle green as his mum’s.
If he was a legend when awake and conscious, then Harry was a ghost when he was asleep, and he much preferred it that way (though he’d never tell anyone, not even Albus Severus with his frightened eyes, and his near-stutter).
It could have been a week since he first dreamed, it might have been several decades to a lifetime—but one day he was sitting by the lake (it had a name, Harry knew it did, but couldn’t quite recall) and he realized there were footprints in the wet sand that were not his own.
He followed them for a time and then woke up.
When his eyes blinked open to the gray early light of morning (Harry the person, not the legend who had a perfect marriage and an ideal life), Harry felt like he was missing something, but couldn’t quite recall.
Another night (the next? After his daughter had graduated Hogwarts, if that was indeed an actual place?) he found the footprints again and followed them for a time.
It became a ritual, on the nights he went to the lake (the ghost, not the legend) and he remained young and gangly even as he grew older in waking.
As time passed, Harry the dreamer remembered that these footprints had always been there, before he dreamt, before he came to this place, he just couldn’t say when or how. He didn’t know who they belonged to. Some nights he would lie down beside the prints, and trace the edges with his index finger, and only later—much later—(an hour? A year? Another world?) he realized that the first time Harry (the dreamer, not the legend) felt longing.
Every night (now he couldn’t forget, not while dreaming, and sometimes while not awake) he would go to the footsteps, follow them until they disappeared into the grass or the edge of the lake, or into nothingness at all … and he would know that he had meant to follow, he had, when he was young, when he was a live, when he was a legend but not fully formed, but had turned away.
This was his punishment, this dream.
At first Harry (the dreamer, never the legend) didn’t realize that there were others beneath this moonless void … shadows little more than imprints. He didn’t understand, couldn’t comprehend, there was nothing here in the darkness, nothing but him (the dreamer, there never should have been a legend), nothing but these precious footsteps of a person who no longer walked beside the lake.
When Harry woke some mornings (the legend, there was never a man) he recalled the footprints, knew they were at Hogwarts … for that was Hogwarts, surely? … but he was too afraid to go to the edges of the Black Lake and go see.
So a year passed, or perhaps it was only a moment.
Ginny snapped at him that he had forgotten their anniversary (again), and Harry replied back (with no emotion, legends do not feel) that there was nothing to celebrate.
Little Lily heard and ran out of the room crying (Ginny muttered that she was too old for “tears”, but Harry disagreed, even if he never cried himself) and followed after her to her favorite tree.
“Don’t you love each other anymore?” Lily asked, with tearstained eyes.
Harry bit his lower lip, deep in thought, and only hugged his daughter closer.
He’d never loved Ginny, not truly, that was obvious (at least now), but he longed and loved in the dreams.
That night when he awoke in the darkness (the dreamer, the legend was still asleep in the spare bedroom), Harry ran to the lake and plunged into the depths where the footsteps disappeared and swam and swam.
He did not feel the cold of the depths.
He did not need to gasp for air. He was dreaming after all. This wasn’t real, although it was more real (or more precious) than anything that happened while he was awake.
It might have been a moment of struggle in the dark waters, it might have been an age during which castles rose and fell above the surface. Harry didn’t know. He only knew he could not stop, he did not want to go back. He knew that he came to the lake for a reason, that the footsteps were leading him somewhere, and he would not stop, not today, not tomorrow, not next year if he lasted that long.
The world fell out and breathed again and Harry (the man, not a dreamer and never a legend) lifted his eyelids up for the first time in what may have very well been centuries.
The light, at first, startled him and his breath quickened in shock. He could feel that he was in a bed, his hands lying by his sides, his shoulders stiff, his back sore, but he couldn’t make out anything in the brightness or past the strange buzzing sound that wasn’t quite a ringing in his ears.
He tried to count, tried to orient himself, but it might have been a decade or only half a second before a rough but familiar hand clasped his.
His eyes searched for something, catching chestnut curls and bright blue eyes that he couldn’t recognize and yet seemed precious.
“Nurse! Nurse!” a rough voice (drawn from sleep, but not his own) called out, the hand squeezing his and he sank into the dark waters again.
Harry (was he dreaming? Or was he never really a man?) choked on water and then his eyes opened again, back in the bright light, focusing.
The warm hand was still on him and looked over at a boy, no a man, it was unclear.
A hand fluttered through his hair, tracing his scar (was that ever more than a dream?), and chapped lips were pressed to his for the briefest of moments.
Mediwizards rushed around the two of them, but Harry (the man, if he was not still a boy) looked at the stranger and tried to place him. He was beautiful, pretty even, but undeniably a boy.
“Who?” he asked, trying to lick his lips.
“Temporary amnesia,” a voice—a mediwizard—diagnosed. “It’s all right, Mr. Potter, you can tell your husband who you are. He’ll remember you soon enough as soon as he gains more awareness.”
The boy—was he a Potter?—looked worried but then gazed back at Harry with adoration (not of the crowds, not of the public, but of one who truly loved) and squeezed his hand again.
“Harry,” he murmured, then cleared his throat, perhaps to gain confidence. “I’m Theo—Theo Nott Potter—your husband.” He cleared his throat again, his eyes pleading for Harry to remember.
But Harry (the man, who sometimes dreamed) didn’t recall, but he could tell that this boy loved him, that he was the only person who had looked at him like that, so he didn’t care.
Licking his lips again, he tried to smile, and he think he managed it and murmured, “Of course. How could I forget?”
He never dreamed of footsteps or water again.