37. Hospitable Visit
“What happened? I don’t understand.”
I couldn’t quite recall waking up.
And I certainly couldn’t remember going to sleep.
For the longest time I’d ever stayed still, I lay in the blindingly white hospital wing, staring at the wooden side of the bedside table, digesting calmly everything that had been so overwhelming in the Transfiguration room.
So there wasn’t a cure, my mind told me reasonably. I still had fourteen more years of—well, not happy years, since that accelerated the process that would inevitably end my life, but it was still—living.
It kind of made the Todd Williams situation seem inconsequential.
But that was the question, wasn’t it?
Was Todd Williams just a player in some huge ultimate game that this curse had worked up?
The way the book had written, it made it seem like Adversus Anima was a thing—a sickness that could infect and manipulate. But that didn’t make any sense. It was a curse. It wasn’t a person. It was inanimate. It had been created by some guy with a backwards name in the nineteenth century.
How could something like that
have such a huge effect on my life?
“We don’t know. The answer’s in the book—but we can’t get her to let go of it.”
Hearing the far off words only made me aware of the huge weight pressing down on my arm. I was lying on my side, and I wasn’t going to move to see what it was—or even open my eyes. That required too much physical movement.
Besides, I already knew what it was.
The last thing I could remember was a blurry form of Nat, pointing at the book that was the key to my answers. I had watched in slow motion as Macmillan had reached for it, and knew that that was not an option.
This was my book.
I wouldn’t let my stupid teacher find it.
“Have you tried everything?”
I could hear the shuffling. And the voices were just one or two—there were many of them. But none that I recognised.
“Of course we’ve tried everything. Every possible magical way of taking the book—it’s attached to her somehow.”
Of course it was attached to me, I felt like saying. This book was the reason I had for understanding what was going on. For understanding who I was.
Or at least knowing. Understanding was a word that didn’t quite fit in.
Because, honest to Merlin, this curse was something that I did not understand.
“Do you know where the book came from?”
Somewhere in my head I recognised that this was a question that I would want to hear the answer of. But then another part of my head reminded me that there were a lot of questions, more important questions that took precedence.
Because the answers in this book would tell me exactly what was going on.
“The Restricted Section. We don’t know how she got it, but the barcode is on the back and we can see it rather clearly. Maryanne’s gone to see if her records can tell us anything about what’s inside.”
This book called everything into question.
Everything in my life—in the lives of the people around me. Because bad luck wasn’t refined to one person—even if only one person was cursed. Was everything that happened to Eric my fault? Was everything that had happened at the Malfoy’s house my fault? Everything that had happened to me—especially recently, made sense. My luck got worse as I got happier. And I had been happier in the recent year.
Albus had been hanging around me. My crush on him was huge—larger than anything before—and yet, not a possibility. Rose was my best friend—a friend who respected me, and my decisions and the people I wanted to hang out with. Fred and Scor were hilarious, and made me laugh nearly every day.
Had all that made me so happy that the Death Eater’s attacked Scor’s house?
Emily was forgiving me—or on her way to it. Eric hadn’t glared at me for the first time in months.
Was that why Todd Williams had chosen me, of all people, to make do his dirty work?
“Ah, Minerva, you’re here. That’s everyone.”
“Do we know what’s done this? Was it an attack? Tell me everything.”
That was the wrong request, I felt like screaming at the Headmistress. I couldn’t see her, but the wise voice was impossible to miss. I couldn’t find my voice, or even the will to use it if I had found it.
But my lack of voice didn’t matter. I knew that she didn’t want to know everything. I had wanted to know everything.
“Look what it’s done to me!”
I wanted to scream at her. But I didn’t. I kept my gaze trained, and focused on the wood of the bedside cabinet.
If Minerva McGonagall didn’t know that knowing everything was dangerous, then it was time she learnt her lesson.
“She was reading the book in my class. I didn’t notice. Natalie Henderson—she’s in my house—cast a spell on the book, so that it looked like the text. I’m not sure what happened exactly. I saw she wasn’t concentrating and went to see what happened but when I said her name she didn’t respond. It was like she was sitting in front of me, but not there at all.”
I had been there, though.
I had been reading.
And he had interrupted me.
I felt a consuming anger through my body as Macmillan said his piece. I couldn’t remember when it was that my subconscious had recognised the voices to be those of the teachers—all I knew was at that point I’d never felt as much fury as I was feeling, directed all at Professor Macmillan.
“Were any other students affected?”
“No. It was just Dalton, here. Henderson was sitting beside her and is just as aware as any other time. I’m not sure what it was that happened, but whatever it was, it only affected Kathryn here.”
Of course it only affected me.
I was the only one it applied to.
None of those others had any idea. No idea what it was like to listen to your own parents change your life with a lie that they didn’t see fit to tell you about. None of them. They were too naive for something like this.
There was a pause in the conversation. I tightened my grip on the book. Or tried to.
I couldn’t even get my own fingers to do what I told them. What if they tried to take the book again? They had the headmistress here again. She had the power to take it.
I tightened my arms around the book again—my fingers finding the will of their own.
“She just moved. Is she waking up?”
I felt the compulsion to frown—but my facial muscles weren’t mine. I wasn’t in control. I stared passively at the wood.
“No. She’s been doing that. Beatrice had to sedate her to get her to lie there. It should have stopped her from moving—which it has, except for the book. We can’t get it.”
“It’s from the Restricted Section, Ernie? It’s probably dangerous.”
It wasn’t dangerous. I would be if they tried to take it from me again. It was my book. My answers. I needed the book.
Again, my hands tightened around the book without my authority.
“She can hear us. Beatrice, give her some more sedation. That might help the poor girl relax.”
I didn’t want to relax.
But then all I felt was a prick in my shoulder, and forgot to remember falling asleep.
“Kats. Katsie, wake up.”
I opened my eyes tiredly, and then jerked in surprise. It appeared I had regained control of my own body. My eyes swam in and out of focus for a moment before they focused in again on the face in front of me.
It was Albus.
I didn’t have time to think about how good looking his face was—aside from a quick ‘Ah, I could wake up to that face everyday’—before I realised the book wasn’t in my arms.
“The book!” I said urgently, pushing myself up so fast that I suddenly couldn’t see for a moment. “Al, where’s the book?!”
Al rested a heavy hand on my shoulder, and again I only had time to revel in the feel for a second before I was frantic again.
“Professor McGonagall took it off you,” Al said.
No. I needed that book.
Instead of the fury that consumed me when the teachers had talked about taking the book while I was in my state of semi-consciousness, I only felt the huge need to get it back.
“Where?” I demanded. “Where did she take it? Is it back in the restricted section? Because we can break back in and take it again. I need that book Al. I need
Al stared at me like I was crazy, but there was a sad smile on his face.
“Kats, the book did something to you,” he said. “That’s why it was in the Restricted Section.”
I shook my head. The book hadn’t done anything to me. I just needed the book. It had my answers in it and I. Needed. That. Book.
“Al we have to get it back.” I told her urgently, my own hand resting on his—surprisingly large shoulder—“I need the book.”
Al looked at me sadly.
“You don’t need the book, Kats.” He reassured me. “That’s what the book did to you. It made you latch onto it. It’s too dangerous for you to read it again.”
I shook my head furiously.
“No.” I told him. “It was in the Restricted Section because it was about curses. Not because the book is evil. I need the book, Al. Give it to me.”
I’m not sure why I was suddenly angry with Al.
I just needed that book.
“Katie. The book isn’t here. I don’t have it. McGonagall took it from you, and—”
I interrupted him. “No.” I said, holding my hand up. “I don’t care what she did with it. I just need it. I really, really, really
Al looked at me. His sad eyes would have spoken volumes if I was paying attention to them. And I would have been if I didn’t need that book so much.
“Katie. I’m trying to tell you. McGonagall took the book—and it was destroyed.”
I stared at Al vacantly again—not in the same way that I had been staring at Nat in Transfiguration.
All I could feel was pure devastation.
“No. You...you’re lying.” I stammered.
Al leaned back; seemingly surprised I was so upset about this book. How did he not understand? This was the book.
“No, Katie,” he said, “I’m really not. As soon as the book was out of your hands it caught fire. McGonagall said it must have been part of the attachment spell that has you all... wonky.” He motioned to me
And then I couldn’t stop crying.
It was like my PMS mood swings only a thousand times worse and a thousand times more embarrassing. All I could hold on to was the fact that my book was gone. My answers were gone.
Al looked alarmed at my newly appeared tears, but leapt into manly action.
“Jeez, Kats,” he said quickly, his eyes widening. He shuffled forward on the bed—and pulled my head—where it had collapsed into my hands—to his chest. He wrapped his warm arms around me and watched me worriedly as I sobbed. “What was in that book?”
I wailed exceptionally loudly.
I lifted my head to look at him, well aware that I was not crying in any sort of sexy way.
My eyes were bloated—I could feel them—and bloodshot. I couldn’t stop sniffing and my lip was wavering as I sobbed. The tears that streamed down my face ruined the remains of what was once nicely done makeup and left stains on my cheeks—which I’m sure were already blotchy.
But my book was gone.
My answers were gone.
“Everything was in that book, Al,” I sobbed into his chest. “Absolutely everything. “I clutched at his shirt, not thinking about the mascara stains and the tears drops that were soaking through it.
Al paused in his act of rubbing my shoulder. His hand quickly went to my waist and pulled me away from him. He frowned.
“What do you mean?” He asked, looking down at me.
I wiped the tears from beneath my eyes, only to break out in a fresh wave of sobs, throwing at him what I’m sure was a pitiful look.
“It was in there, Albus.”
He stared at me.
“Adversus Anima. I found it. It was in that book, Al. I need that book.”
Al kept his gaze trained on me for another second, his eyes widening, before his hand reached to the back of my head and he pulled me back into his warm embrace.
“Merlin, Kats.” He breathed out slowly, his chin resting neatly on the top of my head. I was consumed by the smell of him. The amazing smell of Albus.
For a second I didn’t care about the book.
Then I squeezed my eyes shut, and the book was back. Visions of the cover, and the words that had somehow wormed their way into my head.
“The book was cursed, Katie,” Al said to me. “That’s why it’s affected you so much.”
I shook my head into his shirt.
“No, that book was my answer, Al.”
Albus shook his head now—and I felt it, as he lifted his head and pressed a quick kiss to my head.
“You’ll be alright, Katie,” he said, almost promising it, as he spoke into my hair. “Do you want to talk about it?”
I didn’t want to talk about it.
I really didn’t.
But then it was all I could do to not scream everything at him. He was listening. He had his arms around me and he was ready to listen.
And I couldn’t not tell him.
“It’s worse than I thought it would be,” I said not pulling away, and instead talking into his shirt. “It’s a curse of bad luck, Al. My luck—the thing that I always thought was just a part of me
was put there. It was given to me by Walden Macnair. He made me who I am.”
I felt and heard Al inhale sharply.
“No,” he said, “no Kats, he didn’t.”
He didn’t understand.
“You don’t understand.” I said to him, clenching my fist around the material of his shirt. “He did. Everything that I’ve ever thought about my life—all the good and bad luck—it was all made and influenced by his magic. By his curse.”
“What do you mean?”
I couldn’t see Al’s face, but I could tell that he was frowning. His arms tightened around me—the same way that mine had tightened around the book not too long ago.
“Everything, Al,” I said. “I mean what happened with Eric. I mean what happened with Em, and even the attack at the Malfoy’s house. That reporter who found Rose when she had that non-tracing charm on her. Even the T—” I stopped myself.
That was something that I wasn’t going to tell Albus, even if he said he was listening. Even if it had been brought about by Macnair’s spell, Todd Williams was my problem.
“The Transfiguration problems, and the charms problems,” I saved myself, “They’re all because of stupid Walden Macnair.”
Al shook his head—and again I felt it as my head rested beneath his. “Katie, none of that stuff is your faul—”
“And it gets worse,” I continued, not willing to let him say anything more. “The actual curse gets more and more dangerous as I get happier.”
Albus jerked away from me at that point, so that he could look into my eyes. I was caught by the green of his eyes for a second before he spoke.
“What?” He asked urgently. “What does that mean?”
I shrugged. “It means exactly what I said it means,” I continued. “The happier that I get, with everything—my life, my friends, my grades, my family—the worse the curse becomes. And the result is fatal. The luck gets that bad.”
Albus shook his head.
“No. No, Katie it can’t be like that. It’s not luck if it’s fixed. It’s planned.”
“It doesn’t matter. It still means that I can’t even enjoy what would be a short life anyway. I can’t do anything...” I said.
The reality of it hit me and I was off, unable to hold it in.
I sobbed again.
“Everything that I ever wanted, Al, I can’t have. I can’t have a job that I enjoy. I can’t spend time with Rose or Scor and Fred because they make me happy. I can’t fix anything with Em, because that would make me happy and I can’t fix stuff with Eric, because that would make me happy as well. If I were going to do anything about how much I like you, I couldn’t do it, because being with you would make me too happy. I can’t have good holidays with my parents, and I can’t do better at school. I can’t get rid of the curse, because there isn’t a cure. I can’t sort out my own life. I won’t be able to get married, have kids or do anything like this. All because of Walden Macnair.”
I looked up at Al.
He had the vacant look on his face now.
He was staring at me.
I slowly ran over my words in my head again.
...If I were going to do anything about how much I like you, I couldn’t do it, because being with you would make me too happy...
Oh god, oh god, oh god, oh god.
My alarmed gaze swung to Al. He had gone an odd sort of pale and was staring at me.
“You... like me?” he said, his voice hoarse.
I could see it all.
The odd look in his eye.
The odd expression that masked his features.
He was hiding disgust.
I inhaled so sharply that the air made a sound—a sad pathetic sound as it entered my lungs.
“Get out.” I said suddenly.
Al stared at me.
“Get out,” I repeated. “Get out, get out, get out.”
Al continued to stare.
“Madame Bellows!” I shouted. “GET HIM OUT! I DON’T WANT HIM HERE.”
The look on his face was scared into my retinas. He was disgusted. I had just ruined everything. Our friendship. He was the person I could tell everything too and he was disgusted by my being here.
Madame Bellows, ever the present security guard/matron was there in seconds, her hand wrapping around Albus’s arm as he stared at me and pulling him off my bed.
“Whatever you did, Mr. Potter, you need to leave.” She ordered.
Al shook his head, his mouth opening and closing as he continued to stare at me. Madame Bellows, far stronger than she looked, continued to drag him to the door.
“Good bye, Mr. Potter.”
Goodbye Mr. Potter.
To everyone’s—mine and Madame Bellows’s—surprise, I watched as something flashed in Al’s eyes and he wrenched his arm from the matron’s tough grasp. Then he was sprinting towards me.
I leaned back on the bed, shuffling away—he was going to attack me? Angry at me for ruining our friendship?
“MR. POTTER!!” Bellows bellowed. She was clearly surprised he had the guts to run from her.
But no one was more surprised than me when he reached me. His palms cupped my cheeks, and I stared at him with wide eyes. He fell to his knees, so that his head was below mine, and pulled me so that I was looking down at him. He was out of breath from the run, his green eyes staring into my shattered soul as he looked up at me from where he knelt.
And then he pulled my head down, closed his eyes and pressed his lips to mine.
Thoughts flashed through my head at a million miles per hour. I vaguely registered that this was my first kiss and I had no idea what to do. I then really registered that it was Albus Potter who was kissing me—the first kiss I’d ever had in my sixteen years of life (because I’d had boyfriends, but it wasn’t as though I was as exploratory as, well, Emily.)
But this. This?
This was amazing. Everything that I had ever thought a first kiss should be. A kiss as had been dictated in my magazines and by my best friends (Rose and Emily, once upon a time) and by my romance books and the soppy muggle romantic comedies.
Al was barely touching me—but he didn’t have to. Every nerve ending in my body felt like it was on fire. The only place his skin touched mine was where his hands cupped my cheeks. And, where my hands had come up to his wrists—holding him there.
He smelt brilliant. Every smell that I had revelled in while he was trying to stop my crying was there—only tenfold. It was everything. His breath smelt minty—he’d clearly had a breath mint after dinner—but his shirt smelt just like him. Cinnamon and super—he was sweet, almost. It was amazing.
But I was thinking only of what exactly was happening.
Albus Potter was kissing me.
Albus Potter was kissing me.
And then he wasn’t, pulling his lips from mine so that we could both inhale the oxygen I hadn’t noticed I needed. I stared at him, with wide round eyes.
“I’m not going to let this thing stop you from being happy,” he whispered to me.