June 1904 | Brotherly Bonding | Phineas, Arcturus, & Sirius

The dread Phineas felt every time he saw his family had been lessening, and that almost worried him more that disappointing them. Perhaps it was because they had seemed almost normal. Or perhaps it was because their influence made him transform automatically back into a Black.

The thoughts were troublesome, so drinks sounded perfect.

He had received an owl from Sirius suggesting drinks in Hogsmeade. This time there would be proper Wizarding alcohol, and they would also be accompanied by Arcturus, who Phineas had only seen once immediately following his return home.

While there was also a slight hesitation at not knowing what time with his family would bring, he imagined they would discuss Arcturus’ upcoming wedding. (Though there were, as yet, no plans, it seemed to Phineas that a wedding was inevitable for Arc and that his younger brother wouldn’t follow his less conventional path.)

Phineas arrived first and ordered a drink before curling up in a remote corner. It was quiet and private, which he preferred. He imagined his brothers would have preferred a more central location, but he didn’t feel like moving. The comfort of obscurity appealed to him.

Half a drink passed before Arc arrived. “Arc!” he said in greeting as he wound through tables to reach his brother. “You’re looking quite well! Fancy a drink?”

June 1904 | Artful Deception | Phineas & Gladys

Finding clothing suitable for the vernissage was, in short, frustrating. The event was, more than the art, about the people. Who was there, who was suspiciously absent, and what was everyone wearing. It was exactly the type of event Phineas could have avoided, were he not part of a plan to embarrass the journalists who would most certainly be swarming.

Josiah had, yet again, saved him by gifting him a new suit clearly out of his price range. Phineas declined such a gift, especially one with no purpose other than to cover the fact that he was quite unequal to his peers. But Josiah had insisted, and Phineas resolved then to repay his friend (though he did have to wonder how exactly Josiah had managed it with an even more meager income than his own).

Choosing to Apparate to Gladys’ (it was, after all, far cleaner and quicker than any other mode), he arrived slightly before he was expected, hoping that would not be too much of an inconvenience.

The bell rang as he entered the shop, and he began examining a broom that was on display while waiting for her to appear.

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Miss Gladys Boothby and Mr. Phineas Black

June 1904 | Ingredient Shopping | Phineas & Herbert

Having left Gladys’s shop, Phineas found his way to Knockturn Alley, still dreading this visit to his favorite store.

The shop seemed empty, which was ideal. He intended for as few as possible to know of his business. There would be a few, of course—this supplier and the witch he was told could make his potion—but they were, if necessary, expendable.

He pulled a list of ingredients from his pocket and looked them over. A few standard, some incredibly rare, but all available here. In addition to being endlessly fascinating, Borgin and Burkes was also exceptionally convenient. Especially today, Phineas was grateful for that.

June 1904 | Wandering the Alley | Phineas & Gladys

Borgin and Burkes was his Honeydukes. But instead of sugar, they sold all sorts of fascinatingly foul items. It had been months since his last visit, so Phineas was disappointed that it was this errand that brought him back to his favorite shop.

On a normal day, he would have hurried there. The rest of Diagon and Knockturn Alleys would have been a meaningless blur of trinkets and frivolity. But today he found himself staring in the windows and perusing the shops, taking stock of supplies and enchantments that would never have caught his attention before.

He found his way to Flourish and Blotts where an excited child—a bit younger than Cygnus, he guessed—was talking to his friend rather loudly while his parents searched the shelves. “Next we’re going to look at the Moontrimmer!” the first one said, and Phineas saw the jealousy in the second child’s eyes.

The Moontrimmer. Phineas had heard about that. “Essential for the serious Quidditch player” one article had said. Limited production, though, but the broom’s designer had ended up in Diagon Alley.

Between painful memories and the joys of Quidditch, the latter won out.

The bell rang as he entered, and he made his way to the Moontrimmer. It was the only model, he noticed, and the lack of diversity intrigued him. But with such good reviews, it was worth a look.

June 1904 | Another Potion | Phineas & Herbert

Borgin and Burkes had since lost its luster, but Phineas found himself back in search of ingredients for another potion and for a new potions master.

Herbert had offered his services last time, and Phineas hoped the offer still stood. After killing his only other contact, he needed someone, and someone more trustworthy at that.

The phial of his blood rested in his pocket still. Something about it unsettled him, and for that reason he wanted it with him. Destroying the blood seemed risky, but leaving it behind was unsafe. While waiting for someone to help him, he wandered over to the wall of dusty books and began scanning the shelves in hopes of finding one that would help with that phial.

June 1904 | Reconnaissance | Phineas & Arcturus

Since his night of drinking with Arc and Sirius, Phineas had been concerned for Arc. He knew well that the pressures of marriage were taxing, and he had yet to really know how his younger brother felt. Those same pressures nearly caused him to marry.

Little did that woman know how lucky she was to escape with just a few tears.

Arc’s situation was certainly different to his, but regardless of the reasons, he was still quite obviously anxious. Phineas could talk him through pure nerves, but if there were instead some deeper reason… Well, surely he could offer some bit of advice to ease the situation.

While he hadn’t specified a location, Phineas thought he would be easy enough to spot, especially with the few number of shoppers out. Still, he scanned the crowds carefully in case his brother had trouble finding him.

June 1904 | The Aftermath

Phineas woke in the middle of the night, eyes swollen from crying, face sore from sleeping on his stomach. His dreams had been horrific, but they were quickly falling from his memory. This time, he did not try to retrieve them.

His mind was clouded, but he pushed himself up and checked for his wand. It was ritual rather than concern, for his wand was always with him. He’d had his yew wand since he was 11, and though he was now skilled enough to use magic without it, after a particularly unfortunate encounter with a troll, he was careful to never leave it behind.

Still half lucid, Phineas Disapparated and appeared outside the potion witch’s door. He could feel the fatigue of breaking through her Apparition barrier, but he could also sense the hole he’d punched in it.

Breaking through her defenses brought a smirk to his face. She wasn’t so insulated after all.

The wooden door erupted in green flames and splinters, and when the billowing smoke cleared he stepped inside to see the old woman standing by her cauldron.

“I was expecting you, dearie,” she said sweetly, ignoring that her door was now kindling on her floor. “How did your potion work?”

“It was effective,” he said, bowing his head slightly. “I thank you for your services.”

“There is no need to keep up pretenses, my dear,” she said, still ignoring the rubble. “You will, I’m sure, find it difficult to kill me.”

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June 1904 | Unexpected Results

One drop… Phineas reminded himself as he uncorked the potion and tipped the phial toward Guillermo’s glass of water. His shaking hands nearly upset the entire phial, but he steadied himself. The single drop hit the water and hissed as it mixed in, temporarily changing the water to a vile green before it rippled once and turned clear.

This is it

He brought the water to Guillermo who took the glass and instantly brought it to his lips. Phineas bit the inside of his lip and dug his fingernails into his palm, but Guillermo didn’t drink. He paused, his lips barely touching the glass, and smiled at Phineas. “Te amo…”

Then he drank.

The effect was painfully instantaneous, and Phineas took far too long to adjust to what was happening. Guillermo dropped to the floor and clutched his throat as tears leaked from his eyes. The glass rolled away and out of site, leaving a wet trail in its wake.

Something was wrong, that much was obvious, but Phineas didn’t know what. But then a terrifying thought came to him. The old potion witch’s voice played in his head. “Consider your task carefully. These potions are delicate. Horrible things could happen.”

Phineas stepped forward and pulled out his wand in the hopes of doing something, but Guillermo saw it and flung himself backwards, his hands and feet pushing against the floor to put as much distance as possible between him and the wizard.

“Diablo!” Guillermo said, voice raspy and raw but forceful. Angry. “Usted es el diablo! Vayase al infierno!”

Phineas tried once more to approach him, but he cowered back like a terrified puppy. As the full force of Guillermo’s words hit him, Phineas began shaking and tears rolled off his chin. Even if Guillermo wasn’t scared of him and was willing to let him help, he wasn’t skilled enough in restorative spells to fix this. The potion was supposed to remove his memory, to make him forget Phineas. It seems, in a way, it would work. But it was killing him in the process.

The stream of angry curses ceased as Guillermo began gasping for air, but his throat had closed up and none could get in.

“I’m sorry…” was all Phineas could say. As he backed up slowly, the room swirled together in a watery blur. “I’m so sorry… I love you… I love you…”

With a loud crack he was in his bedroom in London. He found his bed and at once buried his face in a pillow. Had he paid attention, he would have worried that someone could hear him sobbing. But as it was, his mind was fixed on Guillermo, the look of terror and betrayal on his face as his green eyes rolled back in his head.

“I love you…” he muttered softly into the pillow before he passed out and the nightmares found him.

June 1904 | Contemplating Death

14 June 1904

There has been much death as of late. Marguerite Abbott, another Muggle-born. The vile potions wench. Guillermo…

I attended Marguerite’s funeral today. I attempted to attend unnoticed, but I was recognized, and was then thought of as merely a representative of my family. I was thanked for our sympathies, as if mine were entirely owned by my family and I possessed none of my own. It was, they thought, our attempt to show that we cared about them even though they know the Blacks think themselves above it all. The whole show made me sad. I came to join in their mourning—for I’ve lost someone dear to me too—yet it seemed disingenuous. It became about politics and society, and for that I wish I had not gone.

Ten Muggle-borns dead. More will certainly be coming. The killer remains free and people are dying. Whoever he is, he is skilled, that much is certain. For that, there is a small amount of admiration I hold for him. Though that is overshadowed by abhorrence and a desire to watch him burn.

June 1904 | Visiting Guillermo

Phineas Apparated to the safety of the fields surrounding Guillermo’s village. Calculating the time difference, he arrived in the middle of the night, when nearly everyone would be asleep. But with any luck, Guillermo’s patterns would have remained the same, and he would be curled up with a candle reading his favorite book.

A short walk into the village revealed Guillermo’s house right at the edge. The small window glowed a dull orange, so Phineas knew he had timed his trip right.

He stopped by the window, his hand inches from the pane, and closed his eyes. This would be it. The last time he would see this man, and the thought made his stomach hurt.

He considered abandoning the plan. He’d paid the premium for ingredients and dealt with the potions witch already, but none of that mattered. Could he really follow through with it? Taking someone’s memories?

Guillermo had cried when Phineas left. He’d been distraught, a bit angry, but mostly terrified and confused. His father had abandoned his family, and then his mother killed herself. His oldest sister married and left, so he was left alone with his older brother. But now that Guillermo was 19, his brother was inching out the door, too.

Then Phineas left, and that hurt had compounded. If he returned home now, Guillermo would have to live with Phineas’ betrayal on top of everything else.

No, Phineas decided. If I caused this, I have to fix it.

He knocked three times. “Guillermo, mi amor…?”

Behind the window there was a distinct gasp and then a thud as the book fell to the floor. Moments later the window flew open and there, hanging out of it, was Guillermo, his dark hair disheveled and his piercing green eyes almost glowing. “Phinny?”

Phineas smiled and nodded, instantly glad to be back. Being together again felt right, and even if it could only last a moment, this was where he wanted to be.

“But…why are you back…?” There was no trace of anger or resentment in his voice, and Phineas was thankful for that. But there was uncertainty, and fear that he would be left alone again.

“For you, my love.”

That, apparently, was enough. The fear dissipated as Guillermo threw himself out the window and into Phineas’ arms. The scene of sandalwood flooded his senses, and only then did he wonder where the scent came from. Must be a mix of other things, he realized, but as soon as Guillermo started kissing him, he forgot about everything else.

“Mi hermano…” Guillermo said, gesturing toward the house. Phineas nodded—Guillermo’s brother had always been a very light sleeper—as Guillermo led him by the hand away from the house and toward the small stream where they’d first kissed. Where they’d shared all their firsts, actually. The look in Guillermo’s eyes was impossible to miss, and being back made him wonder if spending the night with him was fair. But considering why he came, it was probably the fairest thing he could do.

One more night before he forgets me…

As Guillermo removed his shirt and began kissing his neck, Phineas forgot why he came. He forgot the potion and the heartbreak he would feel and let himself melt into Guillermo’s arms.

June 1904 | Letter to Gladys Boothby

Gladys—

I apologize for having neglected our friendship over the past few days. I was called out of town briefly, and now that I have returned, I would enjoy the pleasure of your company when you have time to accommodate me.

—Phineas

siriusthefirst said:

Dear brother. I have acquired two tickets for the theatre this coming Thursday. I would like very much for you to attend with me. Please send a response by owl at your earliest convenience. Yours, Sirius Black.

The owl that had delivered the letter stared impatiently at Phineas, awaiting the response that was taking the man far too long to write.

He had been dreading another meeting with his family, but he knew it was inevitable. He was back in London for that very reason, after all. That, and marriage, which he hoped wouldn’t be a topic of discussion.

He very much liked his older brother—Sirius had been rather protective of him when he was younger—but Sirius had changed, and those changes were alarming. Still, if discussions of future plans and familial expectations were avoided, the evening could be pleasant indeed.

Phineas grabbed a piece of parchment and responded: “I appreciate the invitation and would be happy to accompany you. I will meet you outside the theatre before the performance. —Phineas”

June 1904 | Procuring a Potion

Skilled as he was, Phineas knew he couldn’t do this alone. This case was too specific, and the last thing he wanted was to remove other memories. There were factors he’d be unable to control with a spell. A potion, however—the right potion, exactly designed and precisely brewed to remove only the memories of Phineas and the moments they had spent together—could accomplish the task. For that, he’d need expertise beyond his own. This was not a goal that pride could jeopardize.

Guillermo was far too important to risk.

Through some…unsavory contacts tied most directly to his brother Sirius, he found a potions witch who could help him. Matilda Hookswitch lived a good way outside London, and her moss-covered home was protected by charms. A barrier prevented Phineas from Apparating too near the home, leaving him to trek for 20 minutes to reach her front door. Hiking was enjoyable to him, but not in those clothes, and not on this errand. And not, for that matter, in the middle of England where everything was flat and damp. Hiking was meant for mountains and trails, not roads and fields, and having to make the walk left him irritated.

When he at least reached her home, he knocked thrice on the door and waited. Thrice more before she answered, and when she did Phineas took a couple steps backward.

She was, to put it simply, revolting. Physically she was not the stereotypical wart-covered wench, but an aura of evil and toxicity rolled off her and seeped into Phineas’ mind. His lungs rebelled as they filled with sticky sweet air, and his head felt uncomfortably warm.

A lesser wizard could not have handled it. But being a Black had its advantages.

“I require a potion,” he said simply. “I’ve come with the necessary ingredients.”

A great deal shorter than he, Matilda looked up at him warily. “A Black boy…” she said in a surprisingly pleasant voice. “Quite a while since I’ve seen one of you.”

She stepped aside and gestured in, a ghost of a grin on her face.

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June 1904 | Letter to Arcturus Black

Brother,

Wonderful seeing you the other night! It has been far too long since we three have been able to laugh as much as we did. I do hope we soon have the time for another night together.

I plan next week to be in Diagon Alley. I have no particular agenda, but I should very much enjoy your company.

I do hope to see you!

Phin

June 1904 | Letter to Gladys Boothby

To Miss Gladys Boothby—

I apologize for my delay in writing. A delicate personal matter required my attention. It has since been resolved, and I would be grateful for your company.

I would also like to test your broom, if the offer has not been revoked. Some tips from the designer herself would also be appreciated.

I look forward to our outing.

—Phineas Black

June 1904 | Travel Preparations

7 June 1904

I am getting ready to see Guillermo. Round-trip should take me no more than ten minutes—including the time needed to administer the potion—so personal items are not necessary. Rather, I am preparing myself mentally for what I’m about to do.

I have to remind myself that this is not unfair to him. It is a mercy killing without the actual death. Death of his memories, perhaps, but only the memories of me. All others will be preserved, which is why this potion is so necessary. Though I do hate the idea of that horrible woman having my blood. “The blood of the willing,” she said. That sounds like something Sirius would say. I would rather not know.

I wish there were another way. But a life with him is impossible and impractical. This all makes me wonder if love is truly enough, or if love is merely a cruel game which everybody loses.

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