Chapter 25 : Knots
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“Out, out! Family only!” She shrieked, fluttering her hands in the air, but none of us seemed to hear her... seeing as we had all gone a little bit insane.
Dom was alternating between hyperventilating and spontaneously collapsing on the floor. Potter looked deep in thought as he furiously paced back and forth across the room, absentmindedly stepping over Dom’s crumpled body whenever he came across it. Fred was running around (Evilyn helplessly following after him) like a chicken with its head cut off, throwing back the curtains of all the beds and screaming, “WHERE ARE YOU HIDING HIM, WOMAN?” And I... I was just standing amidst all the chaos, not quite knowing what to do, trying to convince myself that this wasn’t a dream.
I hate the universe. Really, I do.
First I kiss James Potter. Or rather, he kisses me. Frankly, I’m not too sure how that part went, since it was all mostly just a blur of heat and anger and need and—and...
AS I WAS SAYING—Potter and I kiss. Then, minutes later, my twin brother wakes up from his two month-long coma.
What. The. Hell.
Seriously. Somebody get me off the set of this soap opera. What next? Freddy has an evil twin, Moonbeam Sprinkleshine? And Dom’s lovechild shoots him with her magic rainbow gun? What is the world coming to? What is the universe trying to tell me with this?
...And, most importantly, why does the soap opera I just made up in my head sound like an episode of Care Bears: Mafia Edition? I mean, rainbow gun, sprinkleshine... Really, brain? Really?
I think I need some Advil. And maybe a glass or two of fire whiskey to...you know, wash it all down.
“You!” Madame Poppy bustled towards me, looking harried and absolutely fit to murder. I stared at her dumbfoundedly as she started to speak, watching her mouth form the words but not quite hearing what she was saying.
“...Chaos! Absolute chaos! This is a place of healing and peace, and you bring in these—these ruffians!” Poppy’s livid face, already lined from old age, was etched with worry. Her hair was slipping out of her usually pristine bun. She seemed frazzled as she stepped towards me, gettin’ all up in my grill, looking like she was mere seconds away from wrapping her hands around my neck and throttling the shiz out of me.
I stepped back carefully. I quite liked air and preferred to keep breathing it, thanks. “Madame Poppy—”
“Hooligans! Deranged hooligans, all of you!” Poppy warbled, thrusting a shaky finger at my chest.
“Madame, can you please—”
“—vandals, hoodlums, scoundrels—”
“DUDE! CHILL YOUR TITS!” I burst out, grabbing Poppy by the shoulders and giving her a rough shake. Okay, so perhaps that was a bit melodramatic. But hey, I was mere feet--mere seconds--away from seeing my twin brother... My twin brother who just, in fact, woke up from a coma. My twin brother who I’d been missing so much, I hadn’t even realized the extent of me missing him until now. My twin brother who...come to think of it, probably hated my guts at the moment.
So cut me a break, okay?
Poppy was snapping her mouth shut, looking affronted, but I really couldn’t bring myself to care. The others had halted in their shenanigans and were now turned around, facing me, curious. Waiting.
After what seemed like forever, Poppy finally pushed my hands away, eyes sharp and muderous. She dusted herself off and straightened stiffly. “Excuse me,” she said primly, “but that was out of line and highly inappropriate.”
Fred waggled his eyebrows, leaning—no, leering—forward. “Damn skippy it was.”
There was a long silence.
“...Well, that was unnecessarily creepy,” Dom piped up from where she lay in a piled heap on the floor.
“Damn skippy it—“
“Okay!” I exclaimed before anyone could respond and we were launched into a whole new round of chaos. “Madame Poppy, can you please take me to see my brother?”
Poppy blinked a few times, her face softening for an instant before she straightened and gave a curt, prim nod. “I—yes, yes, of course.”
She turned around, patting her frizzing hair slightly, and started bustling past a row of neatly-beds. The others quickly followed, and I could have sworn that, while she passed him, Fred threw a saucy wink towards Poppy.
What is my life.
Seriously? At a time like this? My whole existence was hanging in a delicate balance right now, and he was making passes at a woman who could be his grandmother?
Okay, Aggy. Just breathe. Calm down. Try not to murder your friends. They’re nice people. Without them, you’d be lonely. You’d probably have to get a cat or something, and if you get a cat, you have to feed it and clean up after all its messes. At least you don’t have to do that with your friends... Most of the time.
I shook my head, trying to rid my brain of all the stupid, extraneous thoughts. I mean, I was about to see my long lost brother, and here I was thinking about...cats. Come on, Aggy. Get your head in the game. Stay focused.
I followed Madame Poppy through the labyrinth of bed and medical supplies, trying to steady my heartbeat. For some reason, walking across the Hospital Wing reminded me of when I first heard about Aidan's accident. I had ran through the entirety of St. Mungo's, trying to find him, completely out of control—I had socked Potter in the nose, for God's sake. What a complete contrast that was from now, with all five of us walking calmly towards the beds, taking our own sweet time. It seemed to take an eternity. Each footstep was agony, each second that ticked by a millennium.
And then finally, we were there. Behind me, Dom was sniffling. Fred’s hand was on my shoulder (it amazed me how he could go form creepy to comforting in two seconds flat). And Potter was standing right next to me, so close I could feel the warmth radiating from his body, his fingertips barely brushing against mine, feather-light but enough to let me know that he was there. For me.
I took in a deep breath. Madame Poppy reached up and drew back the curtain...
And there he was.
Lying on the bed, healthy and breathing and miraculously awake. He looked the same as ever—boyish toffee-colored hair curling up around the ears. Warm, twinkling blue eyes. And that smile on his face—oh god, I had missed it so much. It felt like my whole body was glowing with the impossibility of it all—here he was, awake, alive, amazing...
This was awkward.
Like, really awkward.
Leave it to me. Only someone so painfully awkward, so socially inept as I am, can turn a tearful reunion with a long-lost brother into something almost cringe-worthy.
You see, after Dom had finished hyperventilating and Freddy released Aidan from his twenty minute long man-hug, Madame Poppy and the other’s had left us alone so that Aidan and I could “talk.” They were probably expecting heartfelt declarations of sibling-love and joy. But instead... The two of us were just sitting here. In. Complete. Silence.
I couldn’t stop staring at him. It was amazing, really. So much had changed, and yet, when my gaze was locked with his, it felt like everything was still the same. I was tethered to him. There was an unseverable connection between us, one that would always be there, even if I didn’t truly realize it. He was my brother. And as much pain and stress and heartbreak as he’s put me through, I couldn’t—literally, physically couldn’t—forget that.
“Hi,” I breathed,
There was a long, long pause. We didn’t break eye contact, just stared at each other, sitting together cross-legged on his hospital bed. Not touching. Tentative. Nervous. Quiet. Almost as if we were meeting for the first time.
“Hi,” he said back, and oh god, it was Aidan. Talking. Smiling. With his fresh-laundry smell, and that dimple in his left cheek, and the sprinkling of freckles across his nose. With every little detail I noticed, it was like a pleasant surprise, or the resurfacing of some lost, happy memory. I couldn’t get enough of him. All I could do was stare and stare and stare, unwilling to believe that this was truly happening.
Aidan. My Aidan.
We looked at each other some more. I drank in the features of his face, trying to memorize every freckle and dimple in case he ever left me again. God, I’d missed him. There was so much I wanted to say, but at the same time, there were no words.
...When I was seven years old, I had this dance recital. It was right after my parents got divorced, and when you’re that young and your life changes like that, the little things—even stuff like crappy kid dance recitals—start to mean a lot, ya know?
I reminded my mom of it everyday. It was on a sunday night, seven o’clock at the community theatre. I even hung up the flyer on our fridge and made her promise to take me. I was so excited, I practiced my bows and how I would wave to my fans and sign autographs.
But, as you’ve probably guessed already, dear ol’ mumsie didn’t follow through. See, she’d taken the divorce pretty hard. She would lock herself in her room for days on end, the blinds and door shut, refusing to come out unless for food. To this day, mum and dad still insist that their divorce was a mutual decision. But Aidan and I know better—dad left mum, and that destroyed her.
My mum’s a good person. But she’s...she’s so sensitive, you know? She’s got a young soul. So I can’t really blame her for leaving us like that. For the next few months after the divorce, I had to take care of myself. And Aidan. I would pack our lunches, order take-out for dinner, even clean a bit. Occasionally, Mum would come out of her room to, I dunno, maybe wash a plate or two—her movements always so jerky and mechanical, that wistful, blank look in her eyes—but she would either just give up or, worse yet, smash whatever she washed into little pieces.
Yeah. Those few months, the Bennett Household wasn’t a very fun place to be.
Anyway, my dance recital. Like I said, mum was shut off in her own little word. I was distraught—I knew that she wasn’t going to take me or watch the show, hell I had always known from the start that the whole thing was a lost cause. Which was why I was so surprised when Aidan showed up in my bedroom door, told me to “quit crying like a little baby,” and declared that he was taking me to the show.
Impossible, I had told him. After all, it was late on a Sunday, most of the buses had stopped running, walking wasn’t an option since it was too far. We were doomed.
But then Aidan pulled out his shiny red bike. It was practically new—dad had bought it for him after the divorce in one of his lame attempts to win us over through gifts (side note: divorced parents have the potential to pretty much equal Christmas, birthdays, Hanukah, and Halloween all in one). Aidan, Gryffindor through and through even back then, had refused to use it on principle. But he made an exception for me.
Aidan was always making exceptions for me.
So that was how we got to the community theatre. Me on the handlebars of Aidan’s shiny red bike, wearing a ridiculously fluffy tutu, Aidan peddling furious behind me, the evening wind rushing past us in a blur of adrenaline and laughter and sweet, crisp summer air. Several near spills, scraped knees, and bickering matches later, and we were there.
He watched the whole show, smiling from ear to ear like a proud parent, and when it finished, he was the one who led the standing ovation.
To be honest... I’m not really sure what this story has to do with anything. It just.... It just goes to show that we take care of each other, Aidan and I. That’s just what we do. When we were ten, Aidan started learning how to skateboard. Consequently, I started learning first aid.
First day of primary school, a teacher yelled at me for spilling glue on the desks. The next day, that same teacher mysteriously found all of her papers and supplies on the roof of the school, courtesy of my brother.
That was Aidan and I in a nutshell. We sure as hell weren’t perfect, but we looked out for each other.
...And that wasn’t going to stop. Ever.
I looked at Aidan, watched the way his eyes seemed to twinkle in the light, the slight lilt of his mouth, the confused scrunching of his brow... and I knew that I had to get it out. I had to come clean.
“I didn’t visit you in the hospital,” I blurted out. I had no idea where that came from, but strangely enough, it just seemed like the right thing to say.
There was a pause where he took this in. Considered it. Mulled over the words in his head, like they were a new pair of jeans that he was trying them on. Finally, he nodded. “It’s okay,” he said solemnly, face uncharacteristically serious.
"I just... I couldn't, Aidan. After you left, I was destroyed. And I know that sounds melodramatic and teenage-ish and stupid, but that's what it felt like." It was true. I couldn't walk into a classroom without being showered by pitiful glances. There was this...perpetual feeling of not ever being able to breath easy, It following my every footstep like some menacing, hulking shadow... I literally felt destroyed, every waking moment of every day.
"Anyway," I continued, taking in a deep breath and not meeting his eye. The back of my throat was stinging and even though I hated myself for it, my vision was starting to blur with tears. "I just couldn't handle it. The thought of you lying in the hospital, the possibility of you... dying—"
All of a sudden, Aidan grabbed me by the shoulders, forcing me to meet his gaze, which was hard and iced over with determination. "Aggy, look at me. Look at me. I'm sorry—"
"—no, I'm sorry. I was such a stubborn cow. I put Potter and the others through hell—"
"—that doesn't matter now. None of it does. I should be the one apologizing—I left you guys."
I shook my head fiercely. Aidan had already been through so much. I wasn't going to book him on a first-class guilt trip via Apology Airlines too. "Aidan, you didn't mean to leave us, it wasn't your fault. Fallon Cooper—"
"I know what Fallon Cooper did, and I'm prepared to forgive him for it." Aidan's grip on me tightened, his jaw set in a straight, firm line. I had never seen my flighty brother so passionate, so sure of something. For a brief moment, I wondered if the coma had changed him. "But that's not important. What's important is that I promise you, Agatha, that I will never leave you guys again."
I blinked dumbly for a moment, letting his words ring in my ears, trying to make sense of them. Then, I shrugged Aidan's grip off. Hard. His hands dropped to the bed uselessly, and a flicker of hurt passed across his face.
"I'm sorry, Aidan," I whispered quietly, tilting my head back and finally allowing the tears to fall. I didn't care if he saw anymore. I had to let them go. "But I can't believe that."
"I love you. But please, please—for my sake—don't make any promises you can't keep."
Aidan hesitated. I could see it in his eyes. He was probably thinking about the last time we had talked, when he had broken one of his biggest promises to me, consequently getting us into the worst fight we'd ever had. It had been disastorous, and the only real reason why the arguement still wasn't going on was because of the coma. Even now, I could still feel it—those harsh words, the bitter resentments—riding under the surface, awkward and noticible, the hippogryff in the room. I was of course prepared to forgive him for everything, but only if I could be sure that he would never break another promise to me. Ever. Again.
"Alright," he eventually said.
And somehow, just by saying that, it was all okay again.
I smiled gratefully, reaching up to touch him on the shoulder, half-afraid that my hand would pass through him like a ghost's. But no. I could feel him. He was there. Alive.
And even though I told him not to make any promises, he was here now. So why not just live life right and enjoy this moment? I knew that what had happened with Aidan was far from being history. After all, it had changed us. Hardened us. But now that he was awake, it was almost easy to pretend like everything was back to normal.
Obviously things were different, but that didn’t mean that they weren’t okay. Aidan was alive, for Merlin's sake. And for now, that was enough. What had happened in the past—the buried feelings, hidden secrets and angst-filled snogs with archenemies—were exactly that, the past. They could all be worked out later.
Speaking of angst-filled snogs, I obviously knew that Potter and I had some things to figure out. Right now, my feelings for him sat in my chest like a tangled, coiled mass of string. At one end of the string, there was resentment. Anger. Hatred. But at the other end, there was...grudging respect. Gratitude. And even a little bit of... attraction? I had no idea. And at the moment, it was impossible to tell, because in between those two ends of string—anger and respect, hatred and gratitude—there were a thousand different knots, undecipherable tangles that complicated everything, made it impossible to see the truth and decide what, exactly, were my real feelings for James Sirius Potter.
I shook my head, trying to get you-know-prat out of my head, and took a deep breath. I was here, in this moment, with my brother, and for now that was all I needed.
“I love you, Aidan.”
“Love you too, Aggs.”
Even though life was a horrible mess right now, there were a few things—Aidan’s smile, memories of summer nights and pink tutus, and most importantly, knowing we were back together in our little motley family—that made it all worth it.
It’s the little things, really, that get us through the day. Seeing Dom hold Aidan’s hand. Watching Fred and Evelyn share a secret smile (even though she’s a total bint, I’m still happy for Fred. And when she inevitably mucks things up—due to being a total bint, of course—I’ll be there to kick her arse in the most epic girl fight of all time. And trust me, I’d totally take her. I’m not afraid to go for the hair). Madame Poppy tearing up when she saw us all reunited. Feeling Potter’s fingertips brush against mine and knowing that, whatever happens, whatever the two of us actually "are" (bitter arch enemies, semi-friends, occasional snog buddies...), we were still, when it comes down to it, stuck with each other, and I was prepared to live with that.
Those little things made all the confusion and anger and messes that come with life worth it. Because I know now that I have Aidan, and he has me, and we have all our friends. And—cue corny ending—that’s all that really matters.
Plus, it’s my life. Of course it’s messy. I'm Agatha Bennett, what else could I expect?
A/N: Annnnd that's chapter 25! I know it's really short and kind of a filler, but I neded a chapter that would wrap everything up and tie all the loose ends. Thanks for reading, and I hope you enjoyed!
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