Chapter 26 : part II: from professional nobody to legitimately crazy girl
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Hope Khol: From Professional Nobody to Legitimately Crazy Girl
The first person I saw when I arrived on the Platform to catch the train back to Hogwarts was Frankie Holland, my old Potions partner. Frankie, who was standing with his group of friends – none of whom I knew, saw me, choked slightly and began coughing manically into his hand.
Well that’s not exactly a normal reaction to me, but I’ve had worse.
“Hope!” Frankie sputtered and shot out a hand to steady himself. “You’re here!”
“Uh, yeah, Frankie.” I didn’t know what else to say. “Didn’t want to miss the train?” I tried weakly. Maybe he hadn’t heard about what had happened to me. I mean, a lot more exciting things probably happened over the summer. A coma was, in the grand scheme of things, kind of dull. All I really did was lay there.
“Yeah,” he looked confused. “No! I meant, uhh,” he paused awkwardly. “I thought you were still at St. Mungo’s!”
Oh sweet Merlin, I went from being the weird crazy girl to the legitimately crazy girl.
“Uhh,” now it was me stumbling for words. I suddenly wished that I could be super fake like Tabitha – I never saw her bumbling like an idiot. Furious like a tyrant when someone made out with a guy she liked? Yeah, totally. Stumbling over her words? Not so much.
“Oh, jeez, that came out all sorts of wrong, didn’t it?” Frankie blushed and from the corner of my eye, I could see his friends whispering and pointing at us. It looked like people had heard what happened. Joy.
“I got out of the hospital in July, Frankie,” I muttered before I quickly walked away. Part of me wanted to yell out, “and I’m not a werewolf!” But, I held it in. I hopped onto the train and searched for an empty compartment. I found a non-assuming one about halfway through the train and figured I could hide out there for the trip. Actually being at Hogwarts, I was beginning to realize, would be slightly more difficult.
I sighed heavily and twisted my hair into a knotty, messy braid. I thought back to a year ago when my summer had been so dreadfully boring and I didn’t even really know Sirius, James or any of that lot. I smirked tightly. What a difference a year makes, a voice cooed in the back of my head.
I had been trying especially hard not to think about the security photograph that Nurse Weasley had given me – even though I knew exactly where it was, packed carefully at the bottom of my trunk in between two sweaters. Last year had been exhausting – and it was all mainly due to Sirius Black. The small bouts of romance and fun that he brought about were overwhelmed by the drama, tears and near-death experiences that he also caused. I knew the logical thing to do was ignore him. Now, in the past I hadn’t really proved myself to be the most logical person in the world, but I was older and somewhat wiser.
Plus, I was still frustrated that since I’d been conscious he hadn’t even spoken to me. That just seemed rude.
I began to wonder if any of his friends knew about Sirius’ sleepovers with me while I was in the hospital. James didn’t really seem to know, but had slightly peaked my curiosity when he mentioned that Sirius had had a “difficult summer.” That frustrated me again. I don’t think I was being overdramatic at all when I assumed that I had the most difficult summer of any Hogwarts student.
This whole “not thinking about Sirius” thing wasn’t really working out too well.
I pressed my forehead up against the windowpane of the train and watched all my peers say goodbye to their families. I watched nervous little first years stumble all over themselves in attempts to not look so nervous. I saw Lily Evans standing and laughing with her friends, a shiny “Head Girl” badge pinned to her robe. That didn’t surprise me at all. Good to see not everything had completely changed.
I saw Lena enter the Platform, a tall, gangly blonde boy at her side. He hugged her awkwardly goodbye and her cheeks turned bright pink. It must have been Xeno, her neighbor – the one she was madly in love with. She had told me about him this summer, how they had started hanging out but she wasn’t sure that he actually had any feelings about her. I was honest with her when I told her that I didn’t really know what sort of advice to give her – being somewhat of a failure at all things dealing with romance.
“Hey,” a brisk voice shook me out of my people watching haze. I turned and was surprised to see James Potter standing in the doorway of my compartment.
He looked, as usual, great. His skin was tan from the summer, his features were slightly more defined and his hair was, as usual, a disaster. It took me a moment to notice the “Head Boy” badge on his sweater.
“Oh, wow,” I let out finally. “Congratulations.” I pointed to his badge and he flushed. I didn’t really mean to sound so lackluster. James shrugged.
“It came as kind of a surprise to me, actually,” he confessed. “Out of any of us, I would think Mooney – ah, Remus I mean, would be a shoo-in for Head Boy.” I tensed when he mentioned Remus, and he caught it. That James Potter was so bloody observant. “I mean,” he continued, “because he’s the only one who follows the rules and he’s smarter then the whole lot of us.”
I couldn’t really do anything except nod mutely. I don’t think I would ever be used to James Potter being friendly towards me. I could handle him grunting and rolling his eyes at me but this whole “treating me civilly” thing was just too weird.
“Listen, Hope, I’m sorry about barging in on you the other night. I just wanted to, I mean, you’re good though?” He looked me over, doubtful. I shrugged.
“Everyone thought I was mental before, so,” I sighed. It was hard to be mad at James when he wasn’t being a total git. “This isn’t really that much different.”
A tight smirk spread across James’ face and he tried to hide it with a cough. We stood in awkward silence for a moment, before I finally worked up the courage to ask him what had been on my mind all summer.
“James, what happened that night?”
He looked surprised, but I felt that he had expected my question.
“Well, I told you to stay in your bloody room and you didn’t listen to me,” he grumbled and my heart actually warmed at the sight of grumpy, old James Potter. “But, you remember that part, right?”
I nodded. James huffed about for a second then took the seat across from me.
“What do you remember?” His eyes were serious behind his glasses and he stared at me intently. I flushed then knotted my eyebrows together in thought. I had spent all summer telling everyone – doctors, my family, nurses, Dumbledore, Lena – that I didn’t remember anything from that night, that the memories had actually become hazy.
“I remember, you taking Severus back to the castle,” I began slowly and carefully. “As a bloody stag, by the way.” He smirked. “And then I remember Peter disappearing, Sirius being hurt and Remus…” I trailed off for a moment, and cut myself off when the compartment door slid open.
Frankie Holland stood awkwardly in the doorway of the compartment, rubbing the back of his head. I was beginning to notice this was a common habit that many of the boys of Hogwarts had adopted. None, I noted, pulled it off quite as well as Sirius and James.
“Hey, Hope…” He saw James sitting there and tried to hide his surprise. “Potter…”
“Hey, Holland. What’s up?” James took charge of the conversation, his voice gruff. It was clear he was annoyed that we had been interrupted, and I couldn’t lie – I was too. I was so close to finding out what had happened.
“Um, hey,” Frankie repeated in a confused tone and then turned towards me. “I wanted to apologize, Hope, for being so awkward earlier. I didn’t mean for it to come out like that, and I’m really happy that you’re okay.” His brown eyes were twinkling at me and I couldn’t help but smile.
James grunted from his seat and Frankie looked over at him with a confused expression.
“Anyways, I just wanted to let you know that a couple of us are meeting up tonight at the Astronomy Tower to celebrate the new term. You should definitely stop by.” He smiled at me again and I felt awkward. I wasn’t sure who “us” was – but I was pretty sure they thought I was that weird girl with the bad hair. “Potter,” Frankie nodded at James, then made his way to exit the compartment. “See you guys around.”
Suddenly James and I were alone and it was silent for a quick moment. I was honestly startled when he stood up quickly and made for the door.
“I don’t really think we should talk about this right now,” he was making excuses and it made me furious.
“But, what –what? I’ve been waiting all summer.” I felt my bottom lip jut out. “James,”
“Hope,” he interrupted me – seemingly annoyed for no apparent reason. “I’ve got to go, I’ve got stuff to do.” He pointed to his badge and then hurried out the door.
I groaned loudly and screamed slightly. The frustration that I felt was overwhelming.
I gazed out the window and tried to convince myself that I wasn’t looking for her. A bored expression glazed across my face and I was glad that it was only me and Peter in the compartment. He didn’t ask questions. Prongs and Mooney were off being responsible, upstanding students before the train took off.
I wondered if they’d see her before I did.
I knew Prongs had flown over to see her the other night. We had all decided as a group that someone should at least talk to her before we all went to school. Someone should gauge a reaction from her, to see if she was going to come back stark raving mad and ranting about Mooney being a vicious werewolf.
I smirked to myself.
But she was Hope. She had already been a little stark raving mad. It was one of the things that wrapped me completely around her finger.
She didn’t know that, of course. Bloody Merlin, I had messed it up so many times that I was pretty sure she never wanted to speak to me again. She had spent most of last term begging me to stay away from her. And yet, she had saved my life when I had failed her so pathetically. How did I repay her for it? By putting her in a bloody coma for three months.
My parents – my mother, I should say, finally kicked me out when I came home for the summer. I could have gone to the Potters. Theirs was the house I stayed at every summer, for every fight I had ever had with my family. But I didn’t. I wandered around London like a ghost, and found myself every night at St. Mungo’s. Hope’s nurse was a distant relation of mine, so I kept my face mostly hidden and just repeated how important it was that I stayed with her. I’ll repeat, she must have been quite a distant relation, since the whole romantic notion of my actions appeared to charm her.
I wasn’t trying to be romantic though, I just felt… calmer when I spent the night by Hope’s side. Sure, the chair I slept in for a month was dreadfully uncomfortable and I woke up every morning with new aches and pains – but I woke up every morning to see her heart rate ticking slowly and her hair, finally tamed and fanned out across her pillow. I took to talking to her, even though I knew it was insane. I took to holding her hand and talking to her.
“Nice of you to finally enjoy some peace and quiet,” I chuckled and squeezed her hand gently…
“Oy, I wonder whose feeding that bloody cat of yours while you’re here.”
“I hope that your brothers don’t hunt me down and murder me. I mean, they’re only Muggles but…”
“You do look pretty with your hair like that.”
“I’m sorry, Hope. I’m so, so, so sorry.”
It was pathetic. It was insane. But for some reason, it kept me calm. For some reason, I knew I owed this to her. She had saved my life in some way – I wasn’t exactly sure how. I had toyed with her and played with her and she loved me all the way through it. She loved me no matter what I did, and she tried to stop and couldn’t. And I had been a foolish git, too involved with my own problems and issues to realize that she had been there through it all, and that she never stopped loving me.
Yes, my family disowned me.
But I was beginning to realize that Hope was a sort of family after all, like James, the Marauders and the Potters were. Hope was a sort of family, and she belonged at Hogwarts in the fall.
I was sure that the only person who really remembered that night at the Whomping Willow was Prongs. By the time he arrived with Dumbledore, Hope and I were both unconscious. Hope was immediately transferred to St. Mungo’s, and Dumbledore was responsible for conducting damage control with her grandparents. I was stuck in the Hospital Wing, and stuck begging James to tell me what he saw.
The begging, it didn’t come easily.
I was a Black. I wasn’t raised to beg. It really came off as demanding, more so than begging.
“Prongs, seriously.” I glared at him. My best friend sat at my bedside, smirking at me. He knew my feelings on the Hospital Wing. The place gave me the creeps, and I was stuck here on mandatory watch from Dumbledore.
Mooney had been by earlier, with my dinner. I felt bad for the bloke. He kept constantly apologizing to me, and spent nights pacing in front of the fire in our bedroom. We told him not to worry, that Hope would be fine and she would wake up in all due time and she would know that he hadn’t meant to almost kill her.
It’s hard, though, telling your best friend things that you’re not sure if you really believe. And Mooney, well, he was smart enough to see the doubt in our eyes. In all honesty, we were terrified that Hope might never wake up. A hush had come over the Marauders after that night at the Whomping Willow. Trickery and mischief just didn’t seem right when Hope was unconscious in St. Mungo’s. I felt worse then the lot of them. It was my stupidity, my pride that had started the whole thing.
“Seriously, it was bizarre.” Prongs turned around quickly to make sure we were alone. “You know, Dumbledore asked me for the memory?” I shrugged. James and I were both from Pureblood families, so we were used to Pensives and their theories.
“He figures at some point, Hope will want to know what happened. He seems pretty positive about her condition.” I looked over and saw James staring guiltily into his hands. Hope was a tender subject between us. We all knew that the only one for James was Lily, but I knew my best friend. There was something about Hope that he couldn’t quite understand or resist. He felt guilty for leaving her that night.
“I should have taken her back to the castle with me when I took Snape…” His voice faded off. I crossed my arms.
“Prongs, mate, tell me.”
He looked at me, looked down at his hands again and then took a deep breath.
“Ok,” he began. “The whole thing was just wickedly bizarre. I got back to the Whomping Willow with Dumbledore, after we sent Snivell- I mean Snape – to the Hospital Wing. And we saw Remus, snarling and growling and just scratching and clawing against himself. You could, you know, you could see Remus – there, in his eyes. He didn’t want to hurt either of you, I’m sure of it.”
“We got closer, well Dumbledore did. He told me to stay back, I guess since he is one of the most powerful wizards of all time, he figured he had a handle on the situation.”
“Must be nice,” I muttered.
“Anyways, I could see you – all three of you – from where I was standing. It was just… bizarre.”
“You know, you’ve said that about three times now.”
“I can’t think of any other way to explain it!” He sighed, and a hand went through his hair. “It was a shield charm, but unlike any I had ever seen. It covered you, completely, and it covered the parts of Hope that touched you.” I squinted, trying to remember.
“It left her back, right side and the back of her neck exposed though. And Mooney, man, Mooney was just attacking. I’m bloody surprised that he didn’t bite her.” He attempted a half hearted smile. “We’d really be bloody screwed then, huh?”
“So what happened? What did Dumbledore do?” I prodded, trying not to think about that possible path. If Remus had bitten Hope…
“Well,” James scrunched his face in confusion. “He kind of, spoke to Remus in this strange, calm tone. He told him it was alright. He told him she would be okay, and that you would be okay. And Mooney, it was like he understood. He howled, sadly I might almost say, into the moonlight and then ran off. Then Dumbledore knelt in front of the two of you and whispered to Hope.”
“What did he say?”
“He said, ‘you’re safe now, he’s safe now, you can let go.’” James paused, frowning. “She was unconscious at that point though, so she didn’t let go, and the charm didn’t fade. Dumbledore had to levitate you both back to the castle, and it actually looked like he had a bit of difficulty doing so. Merlin, it took them nearly three hours to get her charm to fade.”
We were both silent, taking in the story of that bizarre night.
I was snapped back to reality by Prongs and Mooney entering the compartment. Prongs, at once, spit out;
“Frankie Holland asked Hope out to some party tonight.”
I didn’t ask James when he had seen Hope. I tried not to get jealous that we had only been here for about an hour and he had already found her. I wasn’t supposed to be jealous of my best mate, but it was difficult when the girl who I was in love with wasn’t speaking to me and had begged me to stay away from her. She wouldn’t speak to me, but she would speak to my best friend.
I figured it was better than nothing.
“Holland?” I questioned. Frankie Holland, who I thought should probably upgrade to ‘Frank,’ since he wasn’t six anymore, was on the Quidditch team with us. He was an all right kid, nice enough and I think somewhat intelligent. But he didn’t deserve Hope. Hope was crazy and unpredictable. She got herself into trouble and needed someone who would help her and be there to catch her when she tripped or passed out or got attacked by magical creatures. She needed someone who understood that she was beautiful under that ridiculous hair, someone to keep her on her toes – to keep her mind running. Holland couldn’t handle Hope.
“Ah,” was all I could manage even though my head was racing. Prongs smirked at me, as if he could read my thoughts.
“So I guess we have a party to crash tonight then, ‘ey boys?” A grin spread across our faces. “Hogwarts needs to know that the Marauders are back.”
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