Alternative Medicine
by Moonslash

Lex wonders whether he'd find the woman before him more appealing if she had a good hairstylist -- the one thing, he realizes with wry amusement, that he cannot recommend.

At first glance, she seems to fit his type: a scientist, brilliant, passionate about her work, successful, and impressively young. Lex would never admit it, but he's has always had a soft spot for prodigies.

She is also slender, frail-looking but undoubtedly strong -- a solemn beauty with dark (and regrettably big) hair, large expressive eyes, a heart-shaped face, and a generous mouth that reveals un-Britishly perfect teeth when she speaks. And, of course, an impeccable professional fašade.

Well, as impeccable as it can be in the case of someone who works with a wand.

When Lex boarded the plane yesterday on the rather embarrassing "off to see the wizard" itinerary, he was mistaken about more than just Professor Granger's gender. Her quarters look like a pretty regular workplace -- well, a pretty regular mix between an academic's office and a small library. Lex had to make a pretty regular appointment with her, despite the secretary's odd comment about an owl, which was probably just an unsuccessful joke. And Professor Granger herself sounds like a pretty regular scientist.

Which is why Lex does a double-take when she places something that looks like an ancient cookie jar on the desk in front of him, and smiles encouragingly.

"This is the container for the memory, also known as the Pensieve. We will now attempt to extract the memory from your mind and put it in here."

Lex's face must be almost too well trained to conceal emotion, because a) somehow he manages not to laugh out loud, and b) the woman looks at him with some concern and quickly adds, "The spell is perfectly safe, I assure you. And the procedure is entirely painless. In fact, wizards use it all the time to store recollections that are special or important to them."

Hm.

Lex has had plenty of experiences with lunatics -- quite literally, more than he can recall. But she doesn't strike him as crazy. And there is something in her serious eyes that turns his amusement into curiosity. And maybe just a hint of hope.

The hope is more disconcerting than the idea of getting memories pulled out of his head like wisdom teeth.

He decides to clear his throat. "So, do you just point your wand at me and say something dramatic in Latin, or do I have to participate?"

The woman smiles, and Lex realizes he's glad that she didn't get offended. Sweet girl. Still not his type, though.

"Actually, it'll be a little bit of both. You need to concentrate on a particular memory, and I will sort of pick it up with my wand and lead it into the Pensieve. The spell is usually performed by the person thinking of the memory, but we should be able to do it cooperatively -- I've slightly adjusted the spell, and it's worked on one of my assistants, so... But let's test it out first, shall we?"

Professor Granger's tone falls somewhere between a fast-paced chitchat and a lecture, and Lex notices that her voice gets slightly breathless when she's taken by a new project. (He won't use the word `experiment' -- the woman has too much heart in her eyes for cold scientific detachment.) He chooses to take her fervor as a sign of trustworthiness.

Amazingly enough, the spell works like a -- well, like a charm.

During the successful trial, they fill the jar with a carefully neutral recollection of a game of pool he played last week with Clark. Looking at the shiny surface of his materialized thoughts, Lex can feel hope spreading its wings in his chest.

Really, he should know better by now.

Next, they try to extract the problematic piece: the missing memory reduced to blank space, a chunk of time ripped from the continuum of his personal history. It is the kind of loss - of knowledge and thus control of his mind - that Lex cannot forget nor accept.

It's his life, and he wants it back.

Professor Granger tells him to focus on the moments right before the memory loss, and Lex closes his eyes, going back, back, back... into the minefield of his wounded mind, so often revisited since he woke up horribly, unforgivably disoriented in Belle Reve, with father at his side.

Thinking about -- or rather, around -- the spot of emptiness feels like a descent into cloudy silence, somewhere between the conscious and the unconscious, between resignation and oblivion. It's not like he doesn't remember anything; he remembers the last moments of clarity, and then the world fading away from him, pulling out from under his awareness with the inevitable smooth force of the tide that stretches in reverse from the moment of therapy, wiping away his identity as far back as the shocks can reach.

He can almost feel the merciless fingers of the electric current probing his mind, obliterating everything in their way, and oh, so unbearably indifferent in their erasure. All that remains in their wake is the indescribable sensation of lack, the wispy ghost-pain of uncertainty.

Lex knows that brain cells can't feel pain, but it hurts anyway -- because something should be there, in his mind, something very important. But he can't remember. All he can do is miss it.

When the wand finally touches his temple, Lex almost jumps.

This is it.

Still deep in concentration, he opens his eyes.

The thread of spun silver slides gently through the air, capturing the recollection of his pre-amnesia moments. But then, halfway between his temple and the jar, he can see the solid strand dissolving into a sparkly haze, like a tail of a miniature comet floating through the room. Then, the last traces of shimmer disappear in the sunlit air of the office, and the strand is gone.

Lex doesn't need to look at the woman's face to know what this means. The link is severed, and all that lies beyond the screen of his non- memory is insubstantial mist.

She tries a few more times, then sighs and begins to talk -- about rather unlikely alternatives, about parallels and differences between damage caused by magical vs. more conventional means, about other possibilities... but they are all far-fetched and Lex is not convinced. He can tell she isn't either.

Damage caused by magical means. He wonders...

It's strange that he hadn't thought of this before, but there are several other blanks in his mind -- not the drug-induced kind of his rebellious, highly toxic youth, but the mysterious, unexplained, and too numerous amnesias he's had since he first arrived to Smallville.

There is nothing conventional about any of these memory losses. The only thing they have in common is that Clark was always around when they happened.

Lex is suddenly, deeply, instinctively certain that something of great importance is hiding in the mist.

Well, it's worth a try.

"Professor... could we try with another missing memory? You may find this strange, but prior to the shock treatment, I have suffered other kinds of amnesia under some rather extraordinary circumstances that have yet to be scientifically explained. Perhaps one of those, if successfully isolated, could..."

"Could give us a sample of the magic used -- if any -- that may be capable of preserving the inaccessible memory... and perhaps we can use that to try to retrieve what you want to remember... yes, that may be a definite possibility..."

He can see the wheels in her head spinning, and decides he likes her.

Back to the cookie jar.

This time, Lex focuses on a certain handshake of a few years back that put his mind under the control of a madman. He picks this memory because he was told he tried to kill Clark while under the influence, and he would very much like to find out why he didn't succeed.

Not that he wishes he did, of course. It's just that Luthors fail so rarely, it's an anomaly even when they act as puppets.

But the same thing happens, and the silver filament unravels before it reaches the jar.

They try again, and again with a few other similarly lost memories, with the same results.

This is... distinctly disappointing.

The professor sighs, then finally sits across from him. Her voice is still sharp and clear despite the genuine sympathy in her eyes, and Lex appreciates the lack of pity therein.

"Whatever the cause of these previous amnesias, they are obviously not magical -- at least not in the way magic works in the wizarding community. This means that, unless the injury to the mind is produced by a spell cast from a wand, I'm afraid there is nothing we can do to reverse it."

He notes the modesty implied in her use of `we' and smiles to himself. Definitely not his type, then.

"And, although I am not a neuroscientist, I am familiar enough with the Mu... the medical procedure involving electric shocks to know that it has a very different effect on brain tissue than spells do -- although, in my opinion, neither is sufficiently explored in scientific study, both medical and magical." There is a definite streak of anger behind her words, and he briefly wonders if she'd ever been mind-wiped.

Lex rises and extends his hand. "Thank you for trying anyway. I figured it was a long shot."

Her eyes are soft as she gets up to walk him to the door. "I wish I could be of more help. Our knowledge of the mind does not extend much beyond a few spells for manipulation of certain functions of the mind -- none of which come close to the complexity that is memory. I am truly sorry, and I wish you the very best of luck."

Lex is already reaching for the doorknob when he thinks of it.

"Just out of curiosity, could you enchant a person to prevent him or her from suffering any future amnesia or brain damage by non-physical means? Could a spell make the mind... impervious?"

There is a moment of heavy silence between them, during which Lex reads volumes from her face. Her head tilts, her mouth hesitatingly opens only to catch the bottom lip with her teeth, and although her eyes narrow in thought, the flash inside them is unmistakable. And Lex knows she's hooked.

He can tell that such a spell does not exist, probably because nobody had really thought of this before. He can also tell that the witch/scientist before him will put her impressive talent to work until it does.

Lex likes ambitious people.

Professor Granger may not be able to dispel the fog that hides the past from his mind, but if she can suspend it from ever covering the truth in the future, that may be enough.

Well, it might make hanging out with Clark a bit more interesting.

Lex grins at the woman, whose eyes are now shining with fierce, almost predatory inspiration. She grins back.

And the future looks bright.

 

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