Chapter 10 : Chapter Ten - The Art of Falling
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Charlotte spent the following days in a complete haze. The chilly rains had finally turned to snow, and Charlotte awoke one very bitter morning to see the entirety of Hogwarts covered in a thick blanket of white innocence. No birds were chirping, the lake wasn’t stirring, and all of the girls in the dormitory were sleeping peacefully. For once, the castle was silent. No gossip, no tears: only white noise.
As Charlotte watched the snowflakes fall from the dormitory window, she could feel the memories of her chat with Remus wash over her. He had put her life into perspective so easily, so quickly, and he hadn’t even realised he’d done it. He held her for several hours while the tears flowed freely, and regardless of what he said they wouldn’t stop. Once the ticking of the clock seemed to fade and time stopped for a moment, Charlotte was able to gain control of her emotions and the thunderstorm she had inadvertently caused started to wane. It took some time for Charlotte to convince Remus to open up after she embarrassed herself with a multitude of tears, but he finally did, and Charlotte had an epiphany.
Her life was not so bad after all.
‘You realise that if I tell you this, you cannot tell a soul. It is imperative that few people know.’
Through the pale, sickly face of Remus directly in front of her, Charlotte could still feel his heart racing in her own stomach. His gaze was intense, his brow furrowed, and she knew whatever he was about to reveal was incredibly important to him.
‘I swear on my life, Remus,’ Charlotte said honestly, putting her hand to her heart.
‘Are you sure?’ Remus asked cautiously. ‘This isn’t your everyday stuff, Charlotte. It is heavy, and I do not want to burden you.’
‘Remus, stop talking to me like I’m six years old,’ huffed Charlotte. ‘I can handle it, I promise.’
Remus inhaled deeply, and finally said, ‘Charlotte, I’m a werewolf.’
Charlotte knotted her fingers in her dressing gown. Every time his confession crossed her mind, she felt fidgety and anxious. She had to move her hands or her feet in some way, and judging by the lack of light coming from the sky it was still very early; the last thing she wanted to do was wake five sixteen year old girls two hours before they needed to be up.
But she couldn’t hide her shortness of breath and the furious beating of her heart. How she wanted to reach out to Remus and help him, to find someway for his nightmare to end but there was nothing; he simply had to suffer once, sometimes even twice, every single month until the end of his life. Charlotte had never experienced such compassion for a human being before.
‘He speaks of you a lot, you know,’ Remus said tentatively.
‘Who does?’ Charlotte asked, already expecting the answer.
‘Charlotte, we know each other’s deep dark secrets,’ Remus said wryly. ‘We’re a little past acting coy.’
Charlotte snorted and nodded, admiring Remus for his out-of-character bluntness.
‘He never says too much, but your name pops up in conversation far more than it used to,’ Remus said. ‘Sirius has never been good at hiding his emotions from other people, especially from myself and Prongs and Wormtail.’
‘Who?’ asked Charlotte, completely bemused.
‘Oh, sorry,’ Remus laughed. ‘They’re nicknames for James and Peter. But he does speak of you, and when he does, he seems… passionate.’
Charlotte scoffed, trying to hide her burning desire to know more. She could feel Remus’s eyes on the back of her head as she turned away from him, her eyes scanning over the titles of books on the shelves but not actually reading them.
‘Charlotte, if you want to talk about Sirius, I’m a good person to talk to,’ Remus said softly. ‘Probably the best, save James.’
‘It’s getting late, Remus,’ Charlotte interrupted abruptly. ‘We should get back to the common room before someone thinks we’ve defected.’
Her soundless reminisces had carried Charlotte into the normal waking hours of the castle. She had started dressing for the school day, silently pulling on her stockings and an extra undershirt before her uniform. The other girls were beginning to stir, and just as Charlotte placed her scarf around her neck, the hangings of Lily’s bed were hoisted open. As quickly and quietly as possible, Charlotte grabbed her bag full of books, her wand, and gloves and dashed out the dormitory to avoid confrontation.
The Great Hall was nearly empty save a few early bird students and teachers, who were already starting on their hot breakfasts. Charlotte placed herself in the very middle of the deserted Gryffindor table and prepared her tea, noticing how nice it was to enjoy her meal instead of stuffing toast in her mouth on the way to Advanced Charms.
Slowly but surely the hall filled up, and Charlotte kept her eyes peeled for Remus. He had been absent for two days now, and although Charlotte knew why, she couldn’t help but worry. His transformation had been three days previous, and she figured it would really take a lot out of him, but suddenly his conspicuous absences over the years made sense. He disappeared because he was recovering: because he was a werewolf.
Lily entered behind James, Peter, and Sirius, accompanied by Ally Lane, a fellow Gryffindor sixth year. Blood immediately rushed to Charlotte’s cheeks at the sight of Lily and Sirius in such close proximity, and without warning, Charlotte’s stomach flipped what felt like a thousand times and her heart started beating rapidly.
Emotions were running through her like a waterfall. She clutched her chest as unremarkably as she could manage, but her breaths were short and jagged and the first years next to her looked startled.
Charlotte darted for her school bag to find her bottle of Siren’s Song, but her vision was fading rapidly. Her mind was racing, trying to sort through all of the feelings and decide how to get out of this situation without mortifying herself even further.
Lily sat only a couple feet away from Charlotte and completely ignored everyone around her, as did Sirius, which only intensified the emotions Charlotte’s Empathy powers were having problems dissecting. She stood up, wobbly and unsteady, and began to make a purposeful walk towards the exit.
Left… right… left… right…
But repeating words under her breath was not helping. She only made it ten feet before everyone in the Great Hall around her vanished, the castle became incredibly empty, and the world went dark.
* * * * *
‘What do you suggest, Albus? I don’t often heal in these situations.’
‘Rest, Poppy. All the rest, water, and Siren’s Song her body will take.’
The voices around Charlotte seemed vaguely familiar, but the room was pitch black and the bed she was lying in was so soft and squashy. She tried to move her hands towards her face, to feel that she was still alive, but her entire body seemed to be completely apathetic about anything other than sleep.
So she gave in and closed her heavy-lidded eyes.
‘She should be awake by tomorrow afternoon. Would you like to come by and speak to her then?’
‘Yes, and until then I will notify her father. Thank you, Poppy.’
* * * * *
When Charlotte’s eyes finally opened again, she felt like she’d been asleep for thirty years. All of her muscles felt as though she hadn’t used them since she was three, and the idea of moving seemed almost impossible. The light in the room was dim, the oil lantern next to her bed casting oddly shaped shadows in the dying sunlight. Without moving her head, Charlotte’s eyes scanned the room and she finally understood that she was in the hospital wing. There was someone sitting next to her, but their profile was distorted by the shadows flickering across the room; feeling incredibly lethargic, Charlotte decided not to say anything to her visitor.
She closed her eyes again, appreciating the comfort of the bed. She had never been in the hospital wing before as a patient; Lily had fallen off her broom in their first year and twisted her arm, but other than that, the hospital wing was entirely foreign to her.
She could hear footsteps approaching her bed, and she silently prayed it was not Madam Pompfrey coming to stuff her full of whatever it was that made her sleep the way she did. She kept her eyes shut and pretended to sleep, though her mind continued to slowly wake up.
‘What are you doing here?’ asked a voice so familiar, Charlotte would know it anywhere.
‘Same thing you’re doing,’ replied a deep male voice, someone Charlotte knew as well. ‘Visiting my friend.’
‘You’re not her friend,’ Lily retorted.
‘Oh, really? And you are?’ Sirius spat back; Charlotte could hear him drag a chair to the other side of her bed, where a soft squish sounded as he sat down.
‘Of course I am,’ Lily replied in a rushed whisper.
‘Judging by the way you’ve been talking about her in classes these past couple of days, I’d say you were anything but her friend.’
‘This has nothing to do with you, Black. You’re not wanted here,’ replied Lily angrily.
‘It has everything to do with me, Evans,’ Sirius responded as he struggled to keep his voice down. ‘You’ve been treating her like scum every since the Quidditch game. Do not lie to me and yourself and pretend you suddenly hate her because of no reason.’
Charlotte suddenly became incredibly aware of her own presence in the conversation. She was completely trapped, listening to two people she genuinely cared about bicker about her, while she pretended to be asleep.
‘For one, I do not hate her,’ Lily whispered, her voice shaking with fury. ‘Secondly, I had no idea eavesdropping was a personal hobby of yours. Thirdly, you are the reason that any of us are in this mess, so why don’t you bugger off and ruin someone else’s friendship?’
‘Because I care about her, you crazy bitch!’ Sirius shouted suddenly. ‘Oh bloody hell. Muffliato!.’
A shocked silence followed Sirius’s outburst. Charlotte didn’t need to open her eyes to envision the scene happening next to her. She could see Lily’s red hair cackling with intensity, her green eyes alight with passion and contempt. Sirius would be sitting coolly in his chair, rolling his eyes every time Lily spoke and becoming increasingly red with anger.
‘You’re all the same, you four,’ replied Lily, softly, but patronizingly. ‘You four know-it-alls, egotistical, selfish… Four incredibly spoilt idiots with nothing but themselves on their mind.’
Without warning, Lily’s chair flew back against Charlotte’s bed frame, causing her eyes to open in shock. She see the ends of Lily’s black robes as she whipped out of sight, her footsteps reverberating her rage off the stone walls.
At first, Sirius didn’t notice that Charlotte was awake. He seemed to stunned to speak and simply stared at the exit where Lily and stormed off. Charlotte watched him cautiously, preparing for some kind of explosion when he found out she had been awake the entire time. Finally, after what felt like half an hour, Sirius’s gaze fell upon Charlotte’s nervous face, and his expression changed noticeably.
‘Charlotte!’ he exclaimed, grabbing her hand and scooting closer to her bed. ‘You’re awake!’
‘Erm… yeah,’ Charlotte said quietly.
Sirius cocked his eyebrow and gripped her hand a little tighter, and for some reason, it felt like rockets were exploding inside of Charlotte’s stomach.
‘How long have you been awake?’ Sirius asked worriedly, his eyes scanning her face for some sort of recognition.
‘Long enough,’ Charlotte replied as she hoisted herself into a sitting position. ‘I’m sorry, but there didn’t seem to be any appropriate time to… you know, wake up.’
Sirius smirked and replied, ‘I’m sorry you had to hear that.’
‘Why are you sorry?’ asked Charlotte. ‘You stood up for me. Well, you both stood up for me, actually.’
Sirius blushed and laughed, placing his forehead on their entwined hands. Charlotte smiled, noticing this was the first time in six years she had ever seen Sirius blush.
‘She’s wrong about the four of you, you know,’ Charlotte said quietly. ‘I know you’re not all selfish, especially not you or Remus. She just doesn’t know you, and six years of squabbling doesn’t help a person’s judgement.’
Sirius raised his head and looked at Charlotte hard, his grey eyes powerful and concentrated.
‘I just wonder why she says those things,’ said Sirius simply. ‘If she’s such a caring and honest person that everyone makes her out to be, why hate myself and my friends?’
‘She doesn’t hate you,’ shrugged Charlotte. ‘She certainly doesn’t hate James.’
‘What?’ Sirius asked. ‘How do you know?’
‘Empathy, remember?’ Charlotte said sarcastically, tapping her forehead with her free hand. ‘I think that’s why I collapsed and ended up here, in this lovely and stylish hospital wing,’ she motioned to the barren walls around her. ‘All of you were feeling something that made me go crazy! I still can’t quite pinpoint who was feeling what or why, but I’ve felt it around Lily and James before. There’s something more there than hatred.’
‘Are you serious?’ he asked in awe.
‘No, you’re Sirius,’ Charlotte smirked. ‘But yes, I’m being one hundred percent honest. Someone is in love with someone, someone is in denial about someone, someone is frustrated, someone is worried, someone is compassionate… Do you see why this happens?’
Sirius nodded and looked away, his eyes unfocused and filled with thoughts. Charlotte admired the way the candlelight danced off his dark hair, his grey eyes, his sharp profile and high cheekbones… and she realised, this was the first time they had spoken since the Quidditch game, and it was easier than she’d ever expected.
‘You said someone was in love, didn’t you?’ Sirius asked suddenly, directing his gaze back to Charlotte.
‘It’s the most obvious feeling in the world,’ Charlotte said light-heartedly. ‘If someone is going to feel that, they’ve really got to mean it, even if they don’t say it. I can feel it from time to time, but it is so incredibly apparent when someone loves someone. At least to me.’
She knew it was an inadequate description, but that was the best she could do. To Charlotte, love was such a clear thing, but only because of her Empathy powers. She felt it all the time when she was around Dumbledore, but she knew it was only because he loved his students and his staff and the castle that he ran so well. Occasionally, she’d feel it walking in the corridors during classes, when two students were walking hand in hand. It was such a powerful feeling, and Charlotte could relate every time she felt it, because of her deep love and admiration she felt for her father.
‘I can tell you who felt it,’ Sirius said shakily. ‘And you’re right, it is the most obvious feeling in the world.’
‘Really?’ Charlotte asked as her curiosity peaked. ‘Was it James?’
‘No, I don’t think so. He’s got more on his mind than he can handle.’
Sirius’s grip on Charlotte’s hand tightened even more, and she could feel the circulation to her fingers beginning to diminish. She smiled uncomfortably, her eyes darting from their hands clasped together to his worried face.
Sirius smiled gently and Charlotte felt a burst of love and compassion so ferocious it felt like her heart had blossomed. Before she could stop herself, a small ‘wow’ escaped her lips and she cursed the fact that Madam Pompfrey had chosen the most inopportune moment to appear at the foot of her bed, a stern look on her face as she pointed to the clock on Charlotte’s bedside table.
‘It is half past visiting hours,’ she said firmly. ‘She needs all the rest she can get, by orders of the Headmaster. Come by tomorrow, Mr. Black. You can visit then.’
Charlotte got one last look at Sirius’s satisfied smile before Madam Pompfrey shooed him out of the hospital wing. That night, Charlotte’s dreams were clouded with visions of her father smiling and Lily beating Peter Pettigrew with a bludger bat.
A/N: I’m sorry I suck at updating. Review, please? :)
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