The discussion wound on. Presently Lilah got up from the wooden chair she had been sitting in, walked over to the body of Henry 2, and stood glaring down at it. George saw her, jumped up and went over. They both glared at the body for a few moments, and then he said, “We should do something about this.”
“Agreed,” said Lilah. She shifted her glare to Marius. “Think Henry 1 should be here for this?”
“What?” said Marius, getting up. “Oh, do you think so?”
“I do,” said Lilah. She looked at Andre. “And our friend from the student body.”
“What?” said Andre. “You mean me?”
“I have in mind a sort of ritual. A wake, if you will.”
“I’m all for rituals,” said Zinnia. “Especially wakes.”
“What do you think, Marius? Here, or on the roof?”
Marius considered, then shrugged and said, “Definitely here.”
“You guys want to get the other Henry?” Lilah asked Annelise and Rob.
“So what really is his story?” asked Marius. “I’m still not terribly clear.”
“Student fell in love with teacher, student went back in time and found teacher when she was a student, she fell in love with him too, I guess, and this was the guy she left for the guy who would have been her student in, oh, fifteen years.”
“A story of love, was it? Such a powerful force. Such a force for good, but it can also unleash such violence.”
“Yeah,” said Lilah, “but this guy sets the record. Entire histories collapsed, and all because he wanted to make sure our friend here never got born. Lot of good it did.”
“May I?” asked Andre, coming up to stand next to her.
The hall door opened behind them. He turned, and there was Henry 1, between Rob and Annelise. Andre hesitated, then went on. “I just, I just wanted to say that in a way, this is all my fault and I’m sorry.”
“Never mind,” said Henry. “You didn’t murder anyone. You just fell in love with Lucy. I can certainly understand that: I too fell in love with Lucy. It drove me mad to think that you loved her and that she even thought about running off with you, and the idea that a younger Lucy would have chosen you over me—well.” He gestured at the corpse. “You can see what sort of thing that does to that sort of person, this person that I was. No, I forgive you, of course. Because there is so much more for me to be forgiven for.”
“Just don’t ever do it again,” said George.
Henry laughed, then his face reverted to somewhere in the vicinity of tears. But he spoke calmly enough. “He was very smart, he really was, my younger self. He had such ambitions. But his great ambition was to be her love, and it was snatched from him. And so he squandered all he could have been—all I got to be for the—I’m 99 years old, and as an alchemist, I’m lucky enough to have effectively been about the age of thirty for nearly seventy years. And have the love of the only woman I ever loved. So much he could have had, but it was not his fate to have that love—well. It’s easy for me to say but true: he should have moved on.”
“It would have been more copacetic for the cosmos as well,” said Lilah.
“Yes,” said Henry. “It never crossed either of our minds that we were bringing an evil into the world. But there it is.”
They stood looking down at the deceased young Henry. Lilah pulled out a handkerchief, wetted it from the water jug on the table, and dabbed away the remnants of blood at the nostrils and ears: now the young man looked peaceful. He might have died happy.
“He would have been a great alchemist,” said Andre. “And a great teacher. Because, um, Professor, you were a great teacher.”
There was another silence. Lucy said, “Zinnia?”
Zinnia pulled out the pouch of herbs she had in her pocket, and scattered some of them over the body. Then she laid out the powdered herbs in a ring around it. She stepped back, held her wand over young Henry’s corpse, and said seven words low. The eighth word, GOTH! she said loud, raising her wand high. With a flash, the body of young Henry, second version of that soul, went up in a flameless flame.
They looked around at each other: Lilah, Annelise, Rob, Zinnia, George, Andre, Marius, the elder Henry. Several of them stole second glances at the empty space where the body had been. It was gone, cleaned out much cleaner than the entire histories Henry the Younger had sought to wash out of the cosmos.