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Cheating the Bet by Ryebread
Chapter 19: Confessions
Thanks to Green for the splendid chapter image.
I couldn’t move. I couldn’t see. I couldn’t talk. The only thing I was able to do was hear muffled sounds and feel enormous pain. My body felt bruised and broken.
Though, not like my previous agony, it was still pretty bad. I tried to shut my brain off and focus on nothing, but my mind kept going back to my battered body. Finally, I tuned my mind to the noises around me. They were muffled, but I could catch a little bit of what they were saying. It sounded like an old-fashioned radio; always cutting out and then tuning back in.
A loud BAM! entered my ears. This was followed by gasps and sobbing.
“What happened?” asked a man’s voice. I couldn’t tell who it was.
“Allie was going… and she didn’t…,” I heard another say, though I couldn’t quite make out what it was. The other bloke was talking too softly and something was messing with his speech.
“My baby,” said a woman. Mum?
I tried to talk to her. I wanted her to know that I was here, but I couldn’t make a sound. I wasn’t able to reach out to her either. I could only listen as I heard her pleas for me to wake and as I made out her crying.
I kept trying to say something; anything, but my mouth refused to form the words. The task was exhausting for me and I started feeling really sleepy.
Wanting to stay awake, I tried to occupy my mind. I even tried to focus on my pain, but the blackness overcame me and I went unconscious.
I woke up sometime later. I don’t know exactly how much time has passed. Everything was as before. I can’t see, talk, move. Well, there is one improvement; I can’t feel any pain. I feel peaceful. I’m sleepy again.
I hadn’t moved from Allie’s bedside for a minute since she was hurt two days ago. The healers at St. Mungo’s had said that she had been hit in the head with the chandelier and her brain was taking time to heal while she slept. They said she would be fine, but I was still worried.
I was exhausted and guilt-ridden and scared for her. Why had I let her do something so likely to go wrong?
Flashback to the Ministry:
I grabbed her wrist, checking for a pulse. Relief flowed through me for a second before I started digging through the rubble to find Allie. Pieces of crystal and sharp shrapnel cut into my hands, but I kept going.
While Dad took care of the three villains, I took care of Alice. She was breathing and her heart was beating, but she wouldn’t wake.
“Dad! Dad! Help me. She’s not waking up.” I was starting to get frantic. He walked behind me and I felt his hand on my shoulder.
“Albus, there’s nothing you can do for her right now. We need to end this fight. Afterwards, we can get her to St. Mungo’s. Stay calm. She’s going to be fine, son,” he reassured me. I nodded numbly and we set off for the lobby.
As soon as Dad and I were in the sights of the dueling wizards and witches, two things happened. First, the death eaters panicked and started to apparate away. Though, we captured some of them, others got away. Secondly, while Mum snogged the living day lights out of Dad (yuck), Hannah and Neville asked where Alice was. This was the moment I dreaded; the moment that I had to tell them that I almost killed their daughter.
I hesitated in telling them. I could see in their eyes that they knew something was wrong. Hannah was about to cry and Professor Longbottom was rubbing her arms, trying to calm her down.
“I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean to, but she just wanted to help. She’s hurt. She’s unconscious and won’t wake up. I’m sorry.”
“Where’s our daughter?” asked Allie’s mum. I beckoned them to follow me, and then I led them to the room where Allie was lying on the floor, injured and deep in involuntary sleep. I wasn't thinking and accidentally slammed open the door.
“What happened?” asked Neville stiffly. He’d never spoken to me like that before, not even when I had gotten in trouble. He really hated me, but I didn’t blame him. I hated me right now, too.
“Allie was going… and she didn’t…,” I stuttered. I was so afraid for her and I felt guilt crashing down on me constantly. It was entirely my fault. Neville didn’t question me any further, but just looked at me pityingly before going over to his wife.
“My baby,” she sobbed, putting her hands over her face and her blonde hair fell over her shoulders in long strands. It didn’t help that she looked so much like Allie. A new wave of guilt hit me.
I left the room to get someone to help with Allie and to give the Longbottoms some space.
Dad spotted me right away and got right to business.
"I sent a patronus message to St. Mungo’s. They’ll be here soon,” he told me. I nodded with relief, but I still felt like shit. “It’s not your fault, Al, you know that right?”
I shook my head.
“No, I don’t know that. It is my fault. She wouldn‘t have jumped in front of that chandelier if I hadn’t let her. We could have found another way. I should have jumped instead or I should have—,” Dad cut me off.
“We can’t worry about the could-have’s and the should-have’s, son. What happened, happened and we can’t change the past… well, at least not legally. Besides, do you think that you could really stop Alice from doing what she wanted to do? Al, she would have done that with or without you and you know it. She is strong-willed, which is one of the things I know you love about her. Why change her?”
I nodded, understanding.
“I wouldn’t change a thing about her. She’s perfect the way she is.”
Dad smiled and then pulled me into a hug.
“I’m so relieved that you’re okay. And thanks, for saving my life. I love you, Al,” he told me and then went over to James, who was checking up on Claire.
I stood there in the lobby and thought about what my dad said. Was it really my fault? She definitely is determined to do what she wants and will go about doing it with or without people’s approval.
I didn’t get longer to think about it because the healers arrived. Two men in bright lime green robes with a bone and wand “X” on them strolled towards me.
“Excuse me, sir,” one of them asked me. “Where is the injured girl?” I showed them the way and in a few minutes, I began my sit at her bedside while she slept.
Back to the present:
I grabbed Allie’s hand and talked to her every once in a while, hoping that she would wake up. Her parents wanted to be there, too, but they had lives to get on with. Unfortunately, I didn’t. My life laid on the bed in a deep comatose state and a potion stop her pain digesting in her.
Someone sat in the uncomfortable hospital chair beside me.
“You told me before, in this same situation, to get out of the room because I smelled bad. Bro, you reek,” said my brother, James.
“This is different, James,” I argued, not looking at him, although, I really did stink.
“How is this different? She’ll still be here when we get back. Just let me take you to get something to eat and then you can shower and come back here. It will only take half an hour tops, knowing the way you eat.” I gave him a look, but my heart wasn’t in it.
“James, how can I leave when this is my fault?”
“It’s not your fault,” said Lily. She put her arms around my shoulders, hugging me from behind. I didn’t even hear her enter the room. “Come on, Al. I miss my big brother. Just take a little break. Hannah and Neville will be here soon, anyway.”
I nodded and slowly got up from my chair, never taking my eyes off of Allie as if she would wake when she heard that I was leaving. She didn’t.
“Okay,” I relented. “I’ll take half an hour to rest and eat and shower, but no more than forty-five minutes,” I told my siblings. To Allie, I said, “I’ll be back soon.” I left the room.
I was back again. I could still hear everything and there was slight pressure on my right hand. Someone must be holding it. The throbbing was gone still. I could hear people talking.
“James, how can I leave when this is my fault?” asked a person I recognized as Al. I tried to speak out.
“No,” I wanted to say. “Don’t feel guilty. It’s alright. Everything is fine.” My mouth wouldn’t cooperate with me.
“It’s not your fault,” said a girl. It was Lily. I silently thanked her for mirroring my thoughts. “Come on, Al. I miss my big brother. Just take a little break. Hannah and Neville will be here soon, anyway.” Mum and Dad would be here? I felt so happy and sad at the same time. I wanted to see them, but my heart broke because I couldn’t.
I desperately wanted to sit upright and tell everyone that I was fine; that they could stop worrying about me as I’m sure my parents were. I didn’t want to cause them any grief. With all my might, I tried to grip Al’s hand and let him know that I heard him, but my hand stubbornly refused.
“Okay, I’ll take half an hour to rest and eat and shower, but no more than forty-five minutes,” Al said to his siblings. Then, he said softly to me, “I’ll be back soon.”
I was frustrated. I needed to say “okay” or nod in agreement. I desired to let everyone know that I was fine, but nothing would work. I felt broken.
I guess that I wasn’t fine. I was broken. I wasn’t working, that’s for sure.
The next few minutes were spent trying to move my muscles. There were times when I felt that this would be it; that I would wake up and start walking around, but it never happened. I was torn between wanting to try again or giving up and throwing a temper tantrum like a child. This helplessness that I was feeling wasn’t me. I didn’t like it.
Another hand gripped mine again. It was warm and soft with a ring on the finger.
“Alice, sweetheart, please wake up. Mummy’s here. Please, darling,” Mum begged. Her hand stroked mine.
Dad spoke. “Hannah, she’ll wake up on her own time. You know how stubborn our daughter is.” He chuckled quietly. I could almost feel them smiling at each other despite their worry. “Besides, the healers said she just needs time to heal and she’s doing great.”
“You’re right, Neville. But, she’s our little girl and I can’t imagine if she…,” Mum said with a quiet hiccup.
“I know, I know. Why don’t we leave now? You need to take your mind off of this right now. I told you; she’s stubborn. Plus, Al’s watching over her constantly. If anyone can get her to awaken, it’s him. He’s a good kid.”
I listened to their footsteps as they walked out of the door. I was happy that they were leaving. Don’t get me wrong; I love my parents, but they can’t just wait here for days. Who knows when I’ll open my eyes? I felt calmed when they left. Mum and Dad were doing alright and that’s all I wanted.
The door opened again.
“Alice,” said Rosy. I heard more than just her footsteps.
“Don’t wake her up, yet, Rose,” scolded Sophie. “She needs to rest.” She made a “shh” sound.
“Sorry,” whispered Rose. I wanted to laugh at them. I was already awake partly. I could hear them all.
“I can’t believe she did that,” I heard Aileen say. “She’s so brave. I could never jump in front of a falling chandelier. Is she mental?” All the girls laughed and I heard some blokes chuckling, as well.
“You’re plenty brave, Lee,” said Eric. “You are in Gryffindor, after all.” Aileen giggled.
“Aren’t you just a flatterer?”
“Well, I’m just saying the truth about my girlfriend.” I heard some snogging noises and some sounds of disgust. Personally, I thought they were sweet. It was about bloody time for that.
“Can you believe that everyone’s together now? It’s kind of weird, but in a good way,” mused Lysander.
“Well, not Al and Al. They’re still being bloody idiots,” said Rose. Thanks a lot, Rose, although, the nickname didn’t irritate me anymore.
“They’ll work it out sometime. Don’t worry about it, Rosy,” Dom dismissed cheerfully. “I just know it.”
“Oh, so it’s like a sixth sense, Dom?” said Scorpius sarcastically.
“Actually, yes. I’m just special that way.”
“Special sure is the word for you, Dom,” joked Fred, who cried out in pain afterwards. “Violence isn’t the answer. Especially with your cousins.”
“You’re right. It’s the question and the answer is yes.” Everyone laughed for a second before it halted abruptly.
“What is everyone doing here?” asked Al. He must have come back already. It didn’t even feel like thirty minutes.
“We were just seeing our friend. Is that a problem?” asked Louis. I felt a new respect for him.
“Well, no, but you’re being really loud. Can you shut it so she can heal faster?” He sounded very annoyed and cranky. He really needed some sleep. At least he didn’t smell anymore. Yuck.
“We were just trying to—,” Roxy said defensively, but Rose stopped her.
“Sorry, Al. I know this is hard on you, but don’t take it out on us,” she told him. To everyone else she said, “Come on, let’s leave him alone for a while.” A herd of footsteps left the room and faded away into the distance.
Al’s hand slipped into mine again.
“I’m so sorry, Allie. I never meant to hurt you. Not physically or emotionally. I never wanted us to end. Whatever I did to cause you pain, I’m sorry. I just wish you would tell me why you broke up with me.” He sighed loudly and then went on talking again. “I meant what I said when I told you I loved you. I still love you. I even kept those gloves. Thanks for those, by the way. I never knew if you liked your present. I saw you wearing it, but you never said anything. Maybe I shouldn’t have broken the frog off. Why did I listen to Fred when he told me to? It wasn’t that annoying… okay, it was.”
Broken the frog off? What did that mean? But I thought back to when I eavesdropped on him and the other blokes.
Flashback to that night:
“There’s just one problem…” Al trailed off. It was silent for a few minutes, except for the annoying croak of a toad somewhere outside, and I had stopped breathing, afraid that the blokes would hear me.
“Oh, it’s easy, Al,” boomed Fred’s deep voice. “Just break if off. She’ll understand.”
Back to the present:
I never stopped to realize that he may not have meant break it off with me, but breaking off something else. He said that he broke the frog off… A frog charm? All of the charms moved… maybe it moved too much or something was wrong with the silver frog and he broke it off.
“Shit. How could I be so stupid?”
“Allie?” I was confused. He heard me?
“How did you hear me?” Al looked slightly amused.
“Well, that’s what happens when you talk; people hear you,” he told me in a mocking voice. I didn’t expend the energy to glare at him.
“Wait, so I’m talking? Holy Merlin! I’m talking, which means I’m awake!” He laughed at me.
“You didn’t notice?”
“Well, no. I was too busy trying to figure out what was wrong with the frog charm,” I told him. He looked confused.
“How do you know about that?”
“Oh, I could hear you, but I couldn’t say anything. What was wrong with it? I’m really curious now,” I said, sounding like a little kid.
“It croaked loudly and obnoxiously repeatedly. It was horrible. Erm… does that mean you heard everything I said?” he asked, looking slightly embarrassed. The tips of his ears turned red.
“Yes, and you did smell. I’m really glad you showered,” I joked. He didn’t look amused. “Not the time?” I asked. He shook his head. I felt like a child being scolded, but I was strangely giddy.
“You really heard everything?” he asked again.
“Yes, I did. And you know what?” I questioned him.
“I love you, too.”