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Chapter 14: When Things Get a Little Bit... Bad.
“Professor Longbottom!” I shouted, pulling my magical earmuffs off. He was sitting at his desk at the front of the room, wearing a pair of earmuffs while grading some papers. I walked to the front of the greenhouse to get his attention. He finally looked up at me and smiled, pulling his own earmuffs off.
“Done already Miss Wood?” he asked, looking down at his wristwatch. “That’s rather impressive. Done ten minutes early. Most students don’t even get through the whole hundred in two hours. You must have some biceps on you hmm?” I nodded with a laugh.
“You just wait for our first match Professor,” I said smiling. “I’ll be knocking Slytherins off their brooms left and right. Legally of course!” He laughed at this.
“Right well I suppose you can go then,” Professor Longbottom said, piling his papers up. “Just be a bit more careful in the corridors from now on.” I nodded.
“Absolutely sir,” I said grabbing my broomstick. “Have a good evening.” I walked quickly out of the greenhouses and hopped on my broom. If I hurried I might actually be on time. I flattened myself to the handle of my broom and sped off around the castle to the Quidditch pitch. I had to have been going at least eighty miles an hour. I reached the pitch in less than a minute. I decelerated quickly and hopped off my broom lightly, landing directly behind Eric. He practically jumped out of his skin, but gave a sigh of relief when he saw that it was me.
“Merlin Alex you scared me,” he said with a chuckle, putting an arm around my shoulders. I was already dressed in my Quidditch kit, but even with all that padding, I was still freezing. Reid cleared his throat at the front of the group, facing us.
“So glad you could join us Alex,” he said with a small smirk. I saluted him dramatically.
“Sorry oh captain of mine,” I said, holding back a smile. Reid just laughed and shook his head.
“We were just about to get started anyways,” he said quickly. “As you all know, we will be having a training clinic today. We have some very special guests here to help us clean up our finesse and teach us a few new techniques.” I exchanged a doubtful look with Fred. We both knew I had nearly perfected every beating move there was, as well as made up a few of my own. Reid cleared his throat again.
“As I was saying, we have seven special guests today. They are the best in their positions, and seventh years from the Irish Quidditch Academy.”
I felt my entire body go rigid. All of the air that was in my lungs a moment ago seemed to be gone. I watched the seven players step out of the locker room, as if everything was happening in slow motion. Reid smiled widely as he introduced the group, but I had to look down. I couldn’t see if he was there. It would be my worst nightmare come true.
“For our keeper training, we have Charlie McLaggen. For our seeker training, we have Benjamin Krum. For our beaters, we have Tim Connolly and Sean Quigley. And for our chasers, we have Mark Flint, Walsh Warrington, and John Dolohov.” I couldn’t breathe at all now. I thought John had been arrested. Expelled. Suspended. Something. But no. He was here. At Hogwarts. Standing ten feet away. Someone touched my face, causing me to almost jump out of my skin.
“Alex, are you alright?” I looked up to meet familiar blue eyes. Eric looked concerned. I nodded quickly. I couldn’t speak.
“Oi, Eric!” Reid shouted. “Our group is over here. Alex what are you doing? Your group’s all the way at the other end of the pitch.” At my name, the piercing cold grey eyes of John Dolohov met mine. And he smirked. He had the bloody nerve to smirk. I nodded to Reid.
“Sorry captain, I’ll be off then,” I said quickly before hopping on my broom and speeding off to the other end of the pitch. I had to gasp for air to regain some normal breathing. I hopped off my broom right beside Fred. Sean and Tim suddenly recognized me.
“AL!” they yelled simultaneously, squishing me in a hug. They had been basically my only friends at the IQA, the three of us all being beaters and all. They both let me go smiling.
“I don’t know how any of this training is going to help you,” Sean said with a laugh. “You taught me half of these moves.” I chuckled slightly and looked to Fred.
“Let’s get started then yeah?” I asked the three of them. We kicked off and let two bludgers loose.
“We’re just going to start with some basic Sloth Grip Rolls to see what level you’re at right now,” John said in a bored drawl. I wasn’t exactly paying attention. I kept glancing over at Alex, who was smacking bludgers harder than I’d ever seen her hit them, and she hits pretty damn hard to begin with. My vision was blocked by a bright green jumper. I looked up to see this Dolohov bloke right in my face.
“Is there something more interesting than improving your Quidditch skills over there?” he asked sarcastically, pointing towards the other end of the pitch. I took a deep breath and turned my attention back to the Sloth Grip Roll demonstration.
“I don’t know why you would bother with her mate,” John said quietly, a smirk on his face. What? I looked at him.
“Excuse me?” I asked. I gripped my broom handle tightly, so much so that my knuckles turned white. Do not punch the git chaser. Do not punch the git chaser. John smirked even more, if that was possible.
“I wouldn’t waste my time if I were you,” he said a bit louder, getting James’ attention as well. “She’s a right tease if you know what I mean. Not a very clean reputation either.” ERIC STRETTON, DO NOT PUNCH THE SODDING GIT. It took every inch of my being to stop myself from beating the life out of him. I turned my head away from him and looked over to Reid.
“Mate when are we actually playing this scrimmage?” I asked loudly, attempting to drown out the anger that was bubbling up inside me. Reid checked his wrist watch.
“In twenty or so,” he said quickly. “Let’s see some Sloth Grip Rolls Eric.” James flew over beside me and elbowed me.
“Ignore him mate.” I could only nod in response before rolling my broom.
Twenty minutes later, I was huddled with the rest of the Gryffindor team. I was standing next to Alex, and couldn’t help but notice how upset she seemed to be. We were all looking at her to get information on the IQA players, as they used to be her teammates, but I could see how hard it was for her to discuss it.
“Well, Krum is a good seeker, but he’s nothing like his dad. He just has a good reputation because of his surname. Phillip, if you stay on him you should be able to get to the snitch before him. He’s not nearly as quick with the reflexes as you. None of you need to worry about the beaters, I taught them half the moves they know, and me and Freddie can keep the bludgers away from you, no problem. Thomas, I’m sorry, but their chasers are good. I mean ridiculously good. Their sneaky and conniving and they play dirty. The only way for us to get the advantage is to keep the quaffle away, and probably knock at least one of them out of the game with a solid hit from a bludger. If you three do get a chance to score, fake McLaggen out and score in the right furthest hoop. He’s got a weak left dive.” She smiled slightly at the end of this. “We can beat them,” Alex said encouragingly. Reid nodded roughly.
“Let’s get out there then,” he said breaking the huddle. I walked beside Alex to our starting points in the left wing.
“You sure you’re alright?” I asked her tentatively, keeping my eyes trained on pulling on my gloves so Reid wouldn’t shout at us for chatting. I knew there was something wrong, but I wasn’t going to force it out of her. Alex frowned slightly and looked at the ground.
“Can we talk about it after practice?” she asked. It seemed like she was almost pleading with me. “Please? I just… I can’t…” I nodded quickly and leaned forward, kissing her on the temple.
“Of course Alex,” I said quietly. She smiled slightly, her eyes glazed over with welled up tears. “Let’s go kick some ass yeah?” I finally got a chuckle out of her. We walked over and took our spots on the left hand side of the formation. I was standing, ready for kick off, directly in front of John. He was staring at Alex with a smirk. I was going to knock him on his sodding ass. Reid blew his whistle as we kicked off. Alex flew off after a bludger, while Reid shot off to the other end of the pitch holding the quaffle.
I chased after Reid in formation, ready for the pass, but it was taken from Reid immediately by Warrington, who shot off to the other end of the pitch. I felt a well aimed bludger whiz past my head by only inches and almost smack John, but he rolled at the last second.
It seemed that all three of the IQA chasers were sticking close to James, Reid, and I. They seemed to think that Alex and Fred would be less inclined to hit a bludger their way if we were right in the line of fire as well. They must not have known Alex very well, and how perfect her aim was. I tried to lose John, to give her a clearer shot. And she took it. The bludger hit him right in the stomach, likely knocking the wind out of him. He fell off his broom, five feet to the ground, just as Phillip caught the snitch.
“WOOOOO!” Reid yelled as the whole team flew towards Phillip. We landed as one giant group on the ground. Most of the IQA team came over to shake hands with us. That’s about when all hell broke loose.
“Solid effort Alex!” Sean yelled at me, patting me firmly on the back, careful to avoid my issues. He knew something had happened.. he just didn’t know what. I wasn’t wearing my chest and back protector today, as we really weren’t doing contact. “I don’t think I got to hit that bludger more than twice.” He and Tim laughed loudly. I glanced over at Eric, who was chatting animatedly with Reid about their passing. Then I looked over to John, who was finally standing, and coming straight towards me. No, no, no, no, no. He whipped his wand out quicker than I could process what was happening.
“Did you not learn your lesson last time you fucking whore!?” he bellowed at me. Why am I just standing here? I couldn’t think. It was like I was in a daze and I couldn’t do anything to protect myself. He slashed his wand through the air.
I was dreaming. This couldn’t be real. It was too much like before. I felt my chest slash wide open, exactly along the lines of my scar. I wasn’t conscious when this happened the first time, so I wasn’t prepared for the pain. I knew I was falling, but I was limp. I couldn’t stop it from happening. I tried to take a breath, but it didn’t come. My body hit the ground, and everything went black.
I was sitting in the main corridor with my head in my hands. My broken hands.
I couldn’t stop hitting him. Again and again but it didn’t seem to inflict enough pain. Then he was unconscious and someone had pulled me off him.
I was arrested and taken to St. Mungos. Reid had apparated to get his parents. James may have gone with him to make sure he didn’t get splinched because of his lack of focus. My hands were currently bound together with magical binds. An auror was standing only a few feet away, making sure I didn’t go anywhere. I think my head was bleeding too. I wasn’t sure.
And Alex. Alex wasn’t in good shape the last time I saw her. She was wheeled down the corridor quickly by some healers and into the ward down the corridor. Dolohov was on a different floor. His injuries weren’t magical.
“Eric Stretton!” I heard a high-pitched voice screech at me. I flinched slightly but I knew who it was. I looked up.
“Hey mum,” I said quietly. She shook her head and wagged her finger in my face.
“Don’t you ‘hey mum’ me,” she said rather harshly. Then she turned her fury on the auror. “My son is not a bloody criminal. You take these binds off him right this moment.” She flipped open her badge. Having a mum that was head of the Department of Law Enforcement seemed to have its perks. The auror quickly unbinded my hands.
“Now go find me a healer to check my son out please.” The auror scurried down the hall quickly. Mum sat down on the bench next to me, a softer expression on her face.
“Eric, tell me what happened and I’ll sort this out,” she said quietly. “Why ever did you beat the boy unconscious?” I put my head in my palms, trying to stop them from shaking.
“He was the one that did that to Alex the first time,” I said, my eyes closed. “He cornered her in a locker room at the IQA, and cursed her with dark magic. You know his grandfather was one of you-know-who’s followers?” My voice began to crack. “He got off. And then he was at school for a Quidditch clinic, and she’s a beater you know so she got him with a bludger in our scrimmage and he just… freaked out and attacked her again.” My whole body was shaking at this point. I looked back up at my mum.
“I couldn’t do anything,” I kept rambling thoughtlessly. “I just watched it happen and I couldn’t stop him. He just did it and then he… he just stood there and smirked at her. She was just lying there bleeding to death and he sodding smirked.” I shook the image out of my head, but it still remained there… everytime I closed my eyes.
“He attacked her, and I beat the hell out of him,” I said viciously. “She might die. He’ll survive some scrapes.” Mum put a hand on my shoulder.
“He won’t get away from it this time,” she said with a small smile. “I’ll make sure of it.” I nodded quickly. Down the corridor, Reid and his parents had appeared. I stood up and walked over, still cradling my hands. Reid chuckled slightly at the state of me.
“You look like hell mate,” he said smiling slightly. He turned back to his parents. “Mum, Dad, this is Eric Stretton, the guy who beat the shit out of Dolohov.” Reid’s mum frowned.
“Language Reid,” she scolded. She turned to me and smiled. “I would shake your hand dear, but I’m afraid it would hurt you a good bit.” I chuckled at this and looked down at the bloody mess that was my knuckles. My mum clicked her way up behind me.
“Oh Katie dear I’m so sorry about what happened,” she said hugging Mrs. Wood, then Mr. Wood, who remained incredibly silent through all this.
“Thank you Melinda,” Mrs. Wood said, smiling slightly. “I just can’t believe we didn’t know about any of this. Reid said this first attack happened over a year ago? But she never told us. The school never even informed us that she was in the Hospital Wing there for almost two weeks.” A healer had just exited the ward where Alex was being treated.
“Mr. and Mrs. Wood?” she asked kindly. “May I speak to you in private?” They nodded and motioned for Reid to come with me and my mum. We returned to the bench I had been sitting on all evening. I looked to Mum.
“You can go back home Mum, it’s late,” I said giving her a hug. “I’ll write you once I’m back at school.” She nodded and gave me a kiss on the top of the head.
“Be safe,” she said with a small smile. She clicked her heels down the corridor and disappeared in the lift. I took a deep breath and looked to Reid.
“Are you doing alright mate?” I asked quietly. He nodded.
“Surprisingly yes,” he said chuckling. “I know Alex, and she’s a tough girl you know? I have to know that she’ll be alright, because the alternative…”
“Isn’t going to happen mate,” I said nodding. “She’s going to pull through just fine.” Reid parents walked back over to us. Mrs. Wood was tearing up a bit.
“Reid, dear,” said Mrs. Wood, her voice cracking, “I think you should go back to school for now.” Reid stood up quickly, a look of confusion etched across his face.
“Why? Mum what’s wrong?” he asked nervously. Mrs. Wood couldn’t even look at him anymore. Reid’s dad finally spoke up.
“The healer said that Allie’s in a coma,” he said thickly, looking down at the floor. “The trauma from this attack made her heart stop twice, and now she’s unconscious. They’re not really sure when she’ll wake up. Apparently, they’ve never seen someone come in who has been attacked with this curse more than once, so they don’t know that she’ll even come out of it.”
Reid just stood there with his mouth hanging open. I couldn’t breathe. Mr. Wood took a deep breath and finally looked up.
“Reid, your mother and I think that it’s best that you go back to school. If you stay here, we know you’ll be out of your mind, as will we,” Mr. Wood said. Reid opened his mouth to argue but he held his hand up to stop him.
“They said Allie should be stable in the morning, so we’ll have her transferred to the Hospital Wing at Hogwarts. It’s closer to home than London. That way we can come see her, and she’ll be close by so you can visit her as well. Just do your mum and I a favor and head back to school alright?” Reid nodded his head as his parents moved to leave.
“Good to meet you Eric,” Mr. Wood said thickly, before putting an arm around his wife and walking to the lifts. Reid sat back down on the bench looking stunned.
“I have to go up to the tea room and tell everyone,” he said quietly. I sat back down next to him.
“What do you mean everyone?” I asked, unfortunately finally feeling the pain in my broken knuckles. Wonder where that healer is…
“The whole team is upstairs in the tea room. Gwen and Deirdre too,” Reid said, putting his head in his hands.
“Mate, just tell them she’s being transferred to Hogwarts tomorrow,” I suggested quickly. Really need a healer. “They’ll understand, and if they don’t, you know Deirdre will get them to shut it.” Reid chuckled slightly at this, looking back over at my hands. He stood up and patted me on the back.
“I’ll see you back at school mate,” he said looking down the corridor. “Get your hands fixed up. Otherwise I’ll be out of a chaser.” I laughed at this and nodded. “See ya.” And with a wave, Reid disappeared into the lift.
I looked around the corridor in search of a healer. None were to be seen, so I walked slowly over to the ward Alex was in. There had to be a healer in the Intensive Care Ward right?
I walked through the open doors and looked around. Most of the beds were blocked from sight by curtains. A healer with long black hair was at the end of a bed at the end of a ward. She gave me an odd look and walked towards me.
“Can I help you?” she asked rather sternly. “Visiting hours are almost… oh.” She had reached me and seen the bloody mess that was my hands. She took my hands in her own and examined them. The healer looked up at me with an eyebrow raised.
“Young man, this hardly qualifies as Spell Damage,” she said simply. I shook my head quickly.
“I’m Eric Stretton. I realize that madam,” I said looking over at the bed the healer had previously been standing near. The bed’s occupant was blocked by a curtain.
“Alex Wood is a really good friend of mine, and I’d really rather not leave her alone. I was just hoping you could heal this up and let me sit with her.” The healer looked at me doubtfully. I looked at the ID badge hanging from her chest pocket.
“Healer Chang, please?” I asked as kindly as I could. Healer Chang sighed and sat me down on the nearest empty bed, before shuffling off to her office at the end of the ward to get some supplies.
I leaned back as far as I could on my cot, trying to see around the curtain at the end of the ward. No such luck. Healer Chang rushed back over with her assistant, who held bandages and a thick purple liquid.
“Now I’m going to use this,” said Healer Chang, holding up the purple liquid, “to clean out these gashes. Because you waited so long to get this checked out you’ll have to keep your hands wrapped up for at least two weeks.”
“Seriously?” I said a bit louder than I meant to. She frowned at me.
“Unless you would like an infection and completely useless hands, you’ll do what I say Mister Stretton,” she said sternly. I nodded quickly. I needed my hands to play Quidditch. I could take a few weeks off.
Healer Chang poured the liquid over my knuckles. I hissed slightly in pain. It stung a bit. I watched as it oozed into the gashes on my knuckles. Healer Chang then pulled out her wand and tapped it against each of my hands. The gashes healed, though not all the way through. The healer mumbled something about them being infected. She tapped my hands again. This time I had to contain a cry of pain as I felt my bones attempting to bend and snap back into place. Healer Chang frowned, examining my hands.
“Ah, just as I thought,” she said quietly.
“What? You thought what?” I asked in a panic. She sighed, pointing to the first and second knuckles of each hand.
“These four are the most damaged, meaning I’m going to have to pull them into place to set them,” she said quickly. I must’ve given her a horrified look because she gave me a comforting smile.
“It will only hurt for a moment,” she said kindly. Healer Chang looked to her assistant. “Adam I need you to hold Mister Stretton’s wrists so I can have a good grip on his knuckles.” The young assistant nodded. He couldn’t be more than a year or two older than me. He grabbed both of my wrists and pinned them to the cot.
“Argh! Merlin that bloody hurts!” I bellowed at her as she yank all four knuckles at once. She must’ve been used to this because she only chuckled at me and grabbed bandages. Healer Chang and her assistant simultaneously wrapped my two hands, tightly so that it went from my mid forearm all the way to the middle of my fingers.
“Is that really necessary?” I asked her through gritted teeth, motioning to my now immobile wrists. Healer Chang nodded, taking back one of my hands and pointing at the middle of the top of it.
“You broke all four of these bones on each hand,” she said kindly. “If I give you the ability to bend your wrists, they will rebreak every single time you bend it. So keep these on, and when you get back to Hogwarts have Madam Abbott redo them twice a day.” I nodded and stood up, now feeling somewhat useless as I couldn’t do nearly anything with my hands. I looked back up at the healer.
“Can I see Alex now?” I asked impatiently. She rolled her eyes at me and nodded, leading me to the end of the ward.
We reached the final bed and I turned to see her. I walked over to the chair near the top of her bed and sat down, needing to catch my breath. She had tubes sticking out of her arms, pumping potion into her nonstop. Layers of bandages were wrapped around her shoulder and chest. Her hair was still in a messy braid from practice. All I could do was sit there and look at her, willing her to open her eyes and sit up and say something. Hell, I’d even be happy with her yelling at me at this point. Healer Chang cleared her throat and handed me a blanket. I took it from her slowly, giving her a confused look. She smiled.
“Don’t worry about the visiting hours,” said Healer Chang, looking over at Alex. “Talking helps you know. She may be unconscious but she’s probably scared as hell. Knowing that she’s not alone might really help.” She looked back at me and gave me a comforting smile. “Get some sleep Mister Stretton.”
I nodded as she walked into her office and looked back at Alex, taking one of her hands loosely, as I could hardly bend my own. I wrapped the blanket around myself and scooted my chair closer to her cot. I took a deep breath and kissed her palm.
“I’m not leaving you alright?” I said, looking at the light freckles spread across her cheeks and nose. “I’m not going anywhere, I promise.” I started humming. “I’ll just sing to you, and maybe you’ll wake up out of sheer fury because you have to listen to my dreadful voice.” I chuckled slightly at this, crossing my arms and leaning them on the cot right by her shoulder, my head resting on them. I closed my eyes heavily, still holding one of her hands, and whispered the words to her favorite song.
“Bum, bum, bum. And in my hour of darkness, she is standing right in front of me, speaking words of wisdom, let it be…”
*** Credit to The Beatles for the above lyrics of the magical song “Let it be.” I absolutely take no credit for that masterpiece. ***
A/N: I have just gone back through this chapter, and realized how much I really love the character of Eric Stretton. As silly as I sound saying that, I really do love the dynamic of him. In one chapter he can go from mentally screaming at himself not to beat up the “git chaser” to singing The Beatles to Alex in her hospital bed :) but I’m going overboard. I want to know what my lovely readers think of it! Thank you for reading and please review!