Chapter 1 : Chapter 1
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He didn’t want to open his eyes. He wanted to stay in the dark where everything could still be imagined a dream. A horrible nightmare. If he opened his eyes, it would be real. The pain, the loss. His life. He didn’t want that. He wanted it to stay away, thinking it as something unreal. Letting his happiness last a little longer.
This could not be happening. He repeated those words over and over again in his head, hoping by some miracle, it would be true. Things like that happened. If one wished it, wanted it, hard enough, it would happen.
But he was in denial. Deep under the constant ‘this is not happening’ in his head, he knew that this in fact was happening. He knew it wasn’t a nightmare; it was real. But accepting it hurt so much more than thinking of it as unreal. And he was not ready for more pain. His last real memory was of pain. What had come afterwards was just blurred bits of things he did not know the reliability of. Bits of sentences like ‘may be paralysed’, ‘ruined beyond repair’ and ‘never going back’ had somehow reached his mind in his unconscious state.
He had put the puzzle together. He knew it was the end of everything he loved.
The voice was slightly familiar, but he didn’t know from where. It was delicate and clearly belonged to a woman. It was soft and sweet, easily breaking through the wall he had been building between his mind and the world around him. He wanted her to keep speaking, but he knew what that would bring. Pain and more words he wouldn’t be able to bear hearing.
Therefore he did not respond.
A warm, little hand took a hold of his hand, squeezing it very slightly. Was one able to feel the touch of a hand if one was paralysed? He could feel the woman letting go of his hand and running her fingers up his arm. No, his arm was not paralysed, he was sure.
Softly, a hand was laid on his other arm. It was the same person, the woman. Her hands felt the same. The same warmth, softness and careful touch. Her fingers rounded his elbows, feeling for something. They ran further up his arm, to his shoulder. The flat hand felt softly around his muscles, clearly searching for something. Then, carefully she squeezed his right shoulder. She let go of it and James knew what was coming next.
Her touch had barely tightened before he cried out in pain. Red-hot pain shot from his shoulder into the shoulder blade and down his arm to his fingers. It was burning, ripping his muscles apart from the bones. Trying to kill him, he was sure.
He sensed nothing but the pain, and he wanted it to stop.
Before his cry had even stopped, he had raised his left arm, pushing the woman away with a violent jerk he didn’t have much control over. He heard her tumble around on the floor, but the only thing he really paid his attention to was the slowly fading pain in his arm.
It had disappeared from his fingers, slowly withdrawing up through his arm, and after several long seconds, there only was a throbbing pain in his shoulder. He bit his teeth hard together, focusing on something else.
Then he remembered. The woman. Very slowly he opened his eyes. The brightness of the room surprised him for a second, but he blinked it away and, despite the pain, he turned his head very slowly to the right. She was rubbing her shoulder, red hair from her ponytail covering her face and the pain she had to be showing from his blow.
With a bitter smile she tossed her hair over her shoulder and slowly helped herself up. With a feeling of horror, he realised he’d just hit a woman, and not just any woman.
He closed his eyes for a second, already able to see the headlines; ‘Fallen Quidditch Star, James Potter, Hitting Ex Girlfriend In Frustration.’
Lily Evans was so different to the person James had dated a few months in his last year at Hogwarts. She had changed, but James couldn’t decide if it was for the better or not. Clad in sky blue ropes and a pained frown on her forehead, Lily was looking at James. She was looking older, thinner in some way. Her hair was longer and darker than he remembered. Almost auburn instead of the sparkling red it once had had. Her eyes were the same though; almond shaped and striking emerald green.
But soon the surprised faded and James felt a new feeling in his body. Shame. He hadn’t seen Lily since their last day of school, and only two days prior to that day, they had broken up in a very loud and not friendly way. And now he had hit her, because she was tending to him. That could not be good.
He closed his eyes in horror and – ignoring the slight pain it caused – let his head fall back on the pillow, muttering a faint, “Fuck.”
Despair overcame him and he closed off once again. His life couldn’t possibly get any worse. Maybe, if he wished for it very hard, when he opened his eyes again, Lily would be gone and another nurse would be standing next to his bed. But recently luck hadn’t been on his side, and he had to admit that those chances were very slim.
His eyes shot open as the covers over his feet were pulled softly aside. Her fingers trailed his skin from his knees and down to his feet.
“Can you feel this, James?” she asked.
He didn’t dare return her gaze and kept a firm eye on the white and grey stripped ceiling. He breathed out inaudibly. “Yes.”
“Can you move your toes?”
Without answering he did so. She let go of his foot and put the cover back over. He breathed out of relief; having his ex girlfriend touching his feet was not something he fancied. In fact, even her being in the same room as him was a thing he’d rather be without.
He knew it was coming. That awkward moment where they had to look at each other, remember their time together, and look away embarrassed. It was always like that. After that brutal reunion, the moment had to come. That’s the way things are, he admitted. Karma screws you over and life hates you and wants to see you lie on the ground, howling in pain.
“James...” Her voice still had the soft edge and now she was speaking close to him. She touched his arm, her fingers leaving his skin burning. “James, I need you to sit up. Can you do that?”
He slowly opened his eyes again. She wasn’t even looking at his face, but his shoulder. Her gaze had that attentive look he knew so well. She was concentrating hard, thinking.
“Yeah,” he croaked.
Without moving his right arm at all, he sat up, thanking the hard Quidditch training throughout the last ten years of his life. He wouldn’t have been able to bear it if Lily was to help him.
“And please turn a little. I need to see the cut.”
Using his left arm, he turned away from her, letting her get to his naked back. Very carefully she started pulling off a large bandage between his shoulder blades which he hadn’t yet realised he was wearing. The tape which had kept the bandage sticking onto his skin pulled on it, making him wince in pain.
“Sorry,” she said.
She removed the rest of it carefully. She threw it into the bin at the door and then turned her attention back to his back. Her fingers softly touched his skin, trailing around what he assumed were where the spear had gone through. Then her fingers returned to the hurting spot from before. It had only just stopped aching.
He could hear her breathing. It was so close to him. He could almost feel it on him too. It was slow and calm, but came out a tad faster than what he remembered her for. She was nervous; he could feel it in her touch too.
“Okay,” she muttered. “Can you move your head down, please? Just stop when it hurts.”
He did as told. He stopped before his chin reached his chest, his shoulder and spine hurting. He let a faint gasp escape his lips.
“And up again, thank you.” Slowly he looked up again. “I’ll just check your flexibility. I’m going to move your arm around little. Please say if it hurts too much.”
Very carefully she took a hold around his upper arm, just beneath the place of the pain. With a slightly unsteady breath she lifted up his arm.
He knew she was being careful now. Last time she’d touched his shoulder he had hit her. He understood her nervousness. He closed his eyes and tried to think of something else, but her touch and the pain it brought made it impossible. It was too much for him.
“I’m sorry,” he muttered faintly. “About before, I mean.”
“It’s okay,” she said.
He gasped when she moved his arm too much forward and with his left hand he grabbed around the covers. He closed his eyes, praying that was the last sign of weakness he’d show her.
Very slowly she put his arm down and sighed deeply. “Thanks.”
She was being too polite. Careful, he realised. She was so nervous, her every movement and word had been carefully thought of before speaking. She was so much more polite than he remembered her. It didn’t suit her.
“How bad is it?” he forced himself to ask.
He regretted it a second later and almost asked her not to answer. He wasn’t sure he’d be able to bear the answer.
She sighed deeply and he could feel the bed give slightly away as she sat down on the bed behind him. “Not good,” she answered after a few seconds. In the silence, he heard her swallow. “Your arm won’t ever be the same again.”
He closed his eyes in horror. She didn’t need to say it. He knew it and it was the truth he hadn’t wanted to wake up to. The ugly truth that told him that after this, his Quidditch career was probably over. The one thing he loved the most in his life was over.
She started unpacking something he only could guess was a new bandage. “But you should consider yourself lucky, James. If the spear had entered your body mere centimetres to the left,” she started as her fingers trailed over the skin of his left shoulder towards his spine, “it would have hit your spine and you would have been paralysed, possibly dead.”
“How can I be lucky?” he muttered. “My arm is useless and the thing I love doing the most is now becoming impossible for me.”
“You could have died,” she said as if he hadn’t heard it the first time. “This is going to hurt a little, but I have to clean the cut.” She pressed something wet against his skin.
He balled his fist up and hissed faintly. He closed his eyes as the first small tears gathered in the corner of his eyes. Then it was over.
He bit his lower lip. “How come it’s not healed? Every other accident I’ve ever had has been healed in a minute. Why is this so bad?”
“I’m not sure,” she said in a voice he could barely hear. “But I think it’s because you got an infection. You’ve already healed where the spear went out. There.” She touched his arm on the front, just beneath the shoulder. “You’ve only been out for nine hours, it’ll soon get better.”
“Better,” he echoed. “I wouldn’t use that word.”
“Look, James...” She seemed to struggle with the words for a few seconds. “That fall and landing...It would have caused a muggle his life, but the magic in your blood saved you. You should be happy. You survived.”
“Why does it make a difference that I’m magical?” he muttered, trying not to let it show that he was on the edge of breaking.
She sighed and slowly put on the new bandage. “It’s a defence mechanism. Like a reaction if I’d hit you on the knee or tried to poke you in the eye. Your body reacts to it before you’re even aware of it. So with magic. It can save us from the most terrible falls and other accidents.”
“But what has it to do with me?”
She attached the bandage. “It’s what saved your life. The spear actually grazed your spine, but you didn’t get much damage.”
“It doesn’t matter,” he muttered, blinking a few times. “I won’t ever be able to play again, will I?”
She didn’t say anything. Instead, she fastened the bandage with her hand one more time. After she finished she didn’t move, but sat perfectly still behind him, breathing fast enough for him to confirm the answer himself. At last she took a deep unsteady breath. “I’m so sorry, James.”
Slowly he rubbed his face in his left hand, not able to contain the grief and tears anymore. Like this he sat for almost a minute; Lily’s hands comforting on his shoulder, his breathing forced and rasped.
“It’s not the end of your life,” she muttered. “There must be something you love just as much as Quidditch.”
“What do you know about that?” he bit a little too harshly. “You didn’t just lose the thing you love the most in your life.”
“No,” she agreed. “But I have tried losing something that meant a lot to me... too.”
“What did you do about that?” he asked, drying the last tear off his cheek. His eyes were still wet though.
“Dealt with it,” she said. “It takes time, but I know you’re strong enough to get there.”
“How do you know?” he whispered.
She got up from the bed carefully and slowly walked to the other side of him. When she sat down in front of him she was looking at him, pain clearly showing on her face, but also determination.
“Because I know you,” she said. “James, you’re one of the bravest and strongest persons I know of, and I doubt a little injury will be the thing to break you.”
He looked away. Her gaze was too strong for him.
And then it came, just as he had expected. That moment. The awkward silence settled and without even reading her mind, James knew what she was thinking. That day, two and a half years back. The last time he had seen her. She had been exiting through the barrier along with Sally Wilson. She turned just before, catching his eye. She hadn’t been smiling, but there had been something else about her look; something that made him wanting to run after her. But she was gone before he could follow and tell her to at least write an owl to him, and he was left with a strange feeling of emptiness.
“Well!” She suddenly jumped off of the bed. “I have other patients I need to go look after.” She glanced at him quickly. “You’ll do fine.” She turned.
“Yeah?” She stopped, turning fast.
He swallowed. “Thank you.”
She smiled faintly. “You’re welcome.”
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