Chapter 10 : Chapter Ten
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“Hey, Al!” Scorpius cried as he entered the common room a few minutes later.
That was nice while it lasted, Albus thought. “How’s it going, mate?”
Scorpius fell onto the couch next to the fire and let out an exhausted sigh. “I was just catching up on homework. I didn’t think O.W.L year was going to be this tough. I should have taken my dad’s advice more seriously.”
“Keep your eyes on the books and away from Louis.”
Albus gawped over at his friend and snorted with laughter. “Draco actually said that?”
Scorpius looked over at Albus out of the corner of his eye and smirked. “He might have,” he muttered, throwing his legs up onto the couch and laying back against the arm of the couch. He let out a long whine at the thought of his slicked-back hair messing up and sat upright again. He ran a hand over the back of his head and swore under his breath.
“Language,” Albus gasped.
“Like you’re one to talk,” Scorpius shot back. “You curse every damn day.”
Albus merely rolled his eyes in response and began plucking at a piece of stuffing sticking out of a small hole in the arm of the chair. “You haven’t seen Lucy today, have you?”
“I saw her going out of the library when I was going in,” Scorpius said, matter-of-factly as he dug a book out of his bag and began flicking through the pages. “Why?”
“I just need to talk to her,” Albus muttered glumly.
Scorpius gazed over at his friend and chewed on his lower lip in thought. “You could always check the tower. She might be there.”
“I don’t know what the new password is,” Albus groaned, leaning forward and holding his head in his hands. He passed his fingers through the dark strands of his hair and tightened his grip, gritting his teeth at the dull ache in his head.
“Go find someone from Gryffindor?”
“It’s not even that important anyway,” Albus said, getting to his feet and grabbing his bag up off the floor. “I’ll talk to her tomorrow.” He swept his bag onto his shoulder and made his way back towards the entrance to the common room.
“Where are you going now?” Scorpius whined.
“Just going to get some fresh air.”
Albus dropped his bag onto the grass before lowering himself down onto the edge of the lake. He was sorely tempted to pull off his shoes but seeing how frosty the grounds were, he knew it was a mistake to even think about it. Tipping his head back, he frowned up at the white sky, knowing it was to start snowing again shortly.
If there was one thing Albus hated most in the world, it was snow. Every time it snowed, no matter how many layers of clothing he had on him, he’d wake up in the morning to find himself sick with the flu. Ever since James stuck a huge clump of snow down his shirt when he was six years old, he’d hated the stuff.
When the first few snowflakes started to fall a mere twenty minutes later, Albus turned around to grab his bag, only to be faced with a pair of frighteningly thin legs. Swallowing back his nerves, he slowly lifted his head and met Jessica’s gaze. Emerald eyes met amber ones as they continued to stare at each for the next thirty seconds before she decided to take a seat next to him.
“You’ve gotten thinner,” Albus said bluntly. “When’s the last time you ate?”
“Is that any of your business, Albus?” Jessica asked, pulling her knees up to her chest and wrapping her arms around her legs. “Who cares though? I don’t think –”
“I care!” the boy shot back. “You know I care. I’ve told you that a million times but do you ever listen?”
“Do not shout at me, Albus Potter,” Jessica snapped, turning to face him with a glare of loathing. “You may get away with doing that to other people but you won’t get away with shouting at me.”
“...now who’s shouting?” Albus mumbled, turning his back on her and facing towards the castle.
Jessica let out a heavy sigh and poked Albus in the back with the tip of her finger. She grinned at the sound of him squealing and covered her hand with her mouth. “I’m just not in a very good mood today.”
“I can see that,” Albus said, glancing over his shoulder. “What’s got your knickers in a twist then?”
She narrowed her eyes at his choice of words and shrugged. “No idea,” she said, yanking a few blades of grass out of the ground and picking them apart with her fingers. “I’m just...messed up.”
“You’re not messed up,” Albus said softly, scooting closer and slipping an arm around her shoulders. He couldn’t help but cringe at how frail she felt in his arms. “You just need a...little....” He trailed off into a whisper at the sight of Jessica’s hands. He took her hand into his own and stared down at the calluses spread across her knuckles. “Sweet Salazar.”
“It’s nothing,” she said, tugging her hand out of his grip and turning to stare across at the Black Lake.
“No, that definitely is something,” he retorted angrily. “What the hell are you doing to yourself?”
“I’m sure you’ve got a pretty good idea by now.” Before Albus could get another word in, Jessica climbed to her feet and made her way back across the grounds towards the castle. Albus stared after her, mouth agape, before jumping up and racing after her.
“Why are you following me?” Jessica said, rounding on Albus and narrowing her eyes at him. “Did I ask you to follow me? Did I give you any indication that I wanted you to follow me?”
“You’re not well and although you might think that no one cares about you, I do!”
Jessica’s bag sank into the frost-covered grass as she hurried back over to Albus and slipped her hands around his neck; she leaned up onto her tip-toes and pressed her lips to his in a gentle kiss. “I’m sorry, Albus,” she whispered into his ear as soon as she pulled away. “You’re just too good for me.”
Albus took the girls’ hand into his own and shook his head. “You wanted my brother,” he said, gritting his teeth painfully. “Did you move onto me when you realized you couldn’t have him?”
“No, Albus, I didn’t,” Jessica replied softly. “That was two years ago. I became your friend because we were paired up in Potions.” She pulled her trembling bottom lip in between her teeth and raised an eyebrow at the boy. “You really think so little of me?”
Albus stood on the spot, shivering as the snow began to fall harder. After all the nonsense James had drilled into his mind about Jessica, he never once thought to hear her side of the story. He watched as she grabbed her bag and hurried on back up to the castle without a single backwards glance. When she was out of sight, Albus turned on the spot and held his fingers to his lips.
“Jess!” he shouted, his voice echoing across the grounds. Whether she heard him or not, she didn’t come back. Albus slumped back onto the grass and lay down, shivering in the cold, frostbitten air. Soon his robes and the back of his head were soaking wet but he didn’t care; all he seemed to care about now was touching his fingers to his lips and smiling at the remembrance of the kiss.
While Albus was outside getting covered in snow, Jessica barged back into the castle, knocking aside a sixth year student with the entrance door. “You shouldn’t have gotten in the way!” she cried at the fallen student before stomping up the stairs and hurrying through the corridors. Without even watching where she was going, she collided into another student, this time, sending them both sprawling to the floor.
“What is it with people today and not....” she cut off with a gasp when she realized it was James she had run into. “Oh my god,” she whispered before clambering to her feet and gathering up her bag.
“Have you talked to Albus?” James questioned before she could run off again.
“What’s it to you?” she spat.
“Oi, I’m not gonna let some pathetic Puffer talk to me like that,” he growled, narrowing his eyes at the girl. “Just answer the question.”
“Yes, I have and for the record, James, if you want to tell him about shit that went on years ago, you should run it by me first. Got it?”
“Fine,” he responded with a slight huff. “Forgive me for looking out for my little brother.” He pushed past Jessica and continued on down the hallway, shaking his head in dismay.
The girl sucked in a deep breath, exclaiming loudly as a sharp pain shot through her chest. She held her arms around her waist and carried on down the hallway, stopping every few seconds to catch her breath. She glimpsed the hospital wing at the corner of the corridor and began shaking her head. I don’t need the hospital wing. I need...I need Lucy.
“I hate when you get like this,” Lucy said in a hushed whisper as she helped walk Jessica over to the couch in front of the fire. Instead of heading down to the Hufflepuff common room, Lucy decided to bring her friend to Gryffindor Tower where she could watch her properly. “Have you eaten?”
“What do you think?” Jessica said quietly, gazing into the burning embers that warmed her skin. “No, Luce, I haven’t eaten a thing. Happy?”
“Far from it,” Lucy muttered in response. “What the hell is going through your mind right now, huh? What possesses you to stop eating?”
Jessica began to shake her head solemnly when the portrait hole swung open and a shivering Albus stepped into the room. “Lucy, I need to....” He fell silent at the sight of his cousin and Jessica and shuffled on the spot. “I can come back if you –”
“What do you need?” Lucy interrupted, jumping to her feet and hurrying over to Albus. “Merlin’s beard, Albus! You’re soaking.”
“That’s what lying outside in the snow does to you,” he said, lowering his gaze to the ground. “I was hoping to talk to you...about something important.”
He cut his eyes over towards Jessica who had already turned back to gazing at the fire.
“James said you’d be able to tell me what’s been going on,” he whispered into the girl’s ear. Lucy pushed Albus into the nearest armchair before turning on her heel and dashing up the stairs to the girls’ dormitories. While he waited for his cousin to return, Albus drummed his fingers on the arms of the chair and sighed.
“Are you mad at me?” he asked the blonde who was sitting three feet away from him.
“I’m not mad,” Jessica whispered, clasping her hands together and bobbing her knee up and down. “I don’t know what I am. But I’m most certainly not mad.” She opened her mouth to speak further but the sound of footsteps caused her to fall silent.
Albus looked over at Lucy and saw a photograph clutched tightly in her fist.
“This should explain a few things,” she said, holding the photo out towards Albus.
The boy stood up, leaving his soaked robes hanging over the back of the armchair, and took the photo out of Lucy’s hand. He gazed down at it with furrowed eyebrows, unable to make sense of what his cousin was trying to show him. “It’s you and...I don’t know who that person is.”
“It’s Jess,” she whispered. “The other person is Jess.”
“Stop messing with me.”
“Does it look like I’m messing with you?” Lucy yanked the photograph out of Albus’ grip and held it up. “This was taken four years ago, just after we started first year. Maybe your stupid brother will tell you the rest.”
The photograph in question showed two eleven-year old girls; the one with the bright red hair was obviously Lucy but the second was unrecognizable, even to Albus. There was no way the skeletal figure staring into the fire next to him was the same chubby girl grinning in the center of the photograph.