Chapter 6 : CHAPTER 6
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Even when I was a child,
I've always known,
There was something to be frightened of.
Breaking Down – Florence and the Machine
I can’t swim, I thought.
The realisation that I probably was going to die in those black depths with only the grindylows and merpeople for company was really goddamn depressing. It could have been a Quidditch accident or falling of the Astronomy tower or … well, anything more elaborate than this whole thing was turning out to be.
My lungs were on fear, my muscles screaming, my eyes blurred, and I simply felt like a leaden weight being pulled down, down, down, juxtaposing the heights of which my panic was rising to.
My frantic kicking filled me with such hopelessness that I let out a gargled sound somewhere between a moan and a sob that only let in a stream of water into my gasping mouth.
I couldn’t believe it, but at one point I felt a stab of boredom. That feeling of having absolutely nothing to do but wait for the end or for someone to save you – the latter of which would have been most preferable at that point. But floating in the water, with that strange beatific weightlessness, I really would have appreciated something to happen. I didn’t know if I’d been in there for seconds or minutes or hours at the moment that that thought came to me; time seemed to have escaped me.
I suddenly felt an odd pushing sensation on my lower back and was aware of being pulled downwards. Or is it up?
The thought appeared in my mind just as I felt air rush over my face.
‘Don’t struggle,’ a cool voice gasped in my ear. ‘Keep still and I’ll pull you out. Just try and take deep, calming breaths.’
I wasn’t sure if I nodded or not; I simply let myself be taken away from the water and where I hoped was to safety.
A feeling of vertigo surged on me and I rolled out of the persons’ arms and hit the ground with a thud. I let out a cry of pain but water surged from my mouth before I could utter a word. A sharp pain stabbed at me between my shoulder blades continuously and still the water kept coming.
The thudding slowed and after a few painful minutes I was able to drag in a long shuddering breath that scratched along my raw throat and made me wince.
I lay exhausted on the ground, water running from my mouth, when another bout of raucous heaving overtook me, until my body was finally satisfied it had expelled all water from my lungs. I collapsed again, lying face downwards on the grass that tickled along my skin, and coughed, spluttered and moaned quietly with relief.
I heard a voice asking if I was alright but I was still in another world; too absorbed in the wonder of being alive. If I could have spoken I would have said, Do I look alright to you?
Damp and shaken, I blinked heavily once. Twice. How long had they been crouching by my side? How had Albus gotten here?
‘Albus?’ I croaked scratchily, pushing the words through my frozen lips. He let out a shuddering breath and dropped his head into his hands, running through them through his sodden hair.
‘Why are you all wet?’ I said, resulting to whispering to ease the pain.
He ignored my question and whipped his head around to look up at Rory who stood a few feet away, one hand cupping his elbow, the other resting over his mouth. His clothing, too, was clinging to him, drenched with lake water.
‘Yes, Hemingford,’ Albus hissed. ‘Why am I all wet?’ Rory closed his eyes for a moment and bowed his head. When the silence lengthened Albus sprang up and pushed on Rory’s shoulders who stumbled backwards. ‘You... you complete and utter idiot! She could have died!’
Rory narrowed his eyes. ‘Oh, I’m sorry, Potter. How was I to know she couldn’t swim? I wouldn’t have dared do anything, otherwise, you twat. I’m not some hellish monster intent on murdering young girls, Potter. Besides,’ he said, waving a shaky hand at me, ‘she’ll be fine.’
Despite his words, the tightness around his eyes and the hard set to his mouth was testament to his blasé attitude.
‘Fine? You call this fine?’ Albus scoffed. ‘Merlin, whoever you perceive to be unwell must be on their bloody death bed.’
I listened to their conversation in a stupor when another mass of water gushed passed my lips. I wasn’t angry with Rory, I decided. How could I be? The same thing had happened to him – minus the drowning – and it wasn’t as if he would know of my inability. If anything it was my fault; I shouldn’t have been reckless and flown over the lake; I shouldn’t have stayed silent.
A warm hand stroked my forehead as I groaned, pulling sodden stray hairs away from my face and Albus murmured softly in my ear.
‘That’s it. Get it all up, Nieves. Good girl,’ he said. I lay back down on the ground, panting and wincing as each breath tore along my throat, and tried not to laugh as I heard Albus mutter, ‘Yeah. Fine, my arse,’ as he sank to the ground beside me.
God I must have looked attractive at this point…
‘How come you’re here, Albus?’ I said, and his eyes flickered to mine before they rested back on the ground, his hands absentmindedly picking at the grass.
‘I had a free period so I came to the lake to do some studying,’ he began. ‘I saw you two messing about on your brooms and suddenly Hemingford falls in – awesome Wronksi Feint, by the way, Nieves,’ he added with a small chuckle. I hoped the cold hid my blush. ‘And then he pulls your broom out from underneath you, and you don’t… You didn’t resurface.’
Rory took a few steps and crouched in front of Albus to look him directly in the eye.
‘Studying, Potter? That’s what you were doing?’ he said, smirking.
Albus looked at him suspiciously. ‘What else would I be doing?’
Rory shrugged and walked lazily back to where he stood before. ‘Your guess is as good as mine,’ he said finally, his eyes twinkling.
‘So… Albus, you p-pulled me out?’ I asked, lying on my back and staring at him. Rory scowled as the person in question grinned.
‘I waited a minute after Hemingford dove down, but when he came back up without you, I just acted on impulse and–’
‘I tried, Genevieve, believe me, I did,’ Rory interrupted, nearly pleading with me. ‘But it was just so dark down there and I couldn’t see you.’ The more Rory stressed his words the more panicky his expression became. ‘I would’ve kept diving but when… Potter came I waited to see what would happen. Merlin knew he would’ve had more luck than I was having.’
I nodded for him to continue, my teeth beginning to chatter as the cold set into my bones.
‘But how d-did you rescue m-me if it was so d-dark, Albus?’ I bit out.
Rory smirked again, his eyes sparkling mischievously as if he knew something and wasn’t against sharing it. ‘Mm, do tell, Potter.’
Albus shrugged. ‘Better eye-sight than you, obviously, Hemingford.’
The two boys stared at one another in some sort of unspoken competition before Albus’ eyes flickered to mine and widened.
‘Oh, shit, Nieves. We need to get you out of those clothes–’
‘Smooth, Potter,’ Rory choked out through his laughter.
‘–Or you’ll get hypothermia,’ Albus finished sternly, shooting a warning glance at Rory.
He bounced onto his feet and pulled me up by my hands, but my weak knees buckled from underneath me and he had to hook his arms under my own to stop me from crumpling to the floor.
I tried to step forwards on shaky legs but Albus sighed, picking me up effortlessly into his arms, bridal-style, whilst Rory muttered, ‘Shameless,’ and he walked up ahead.
‘Where are you taking her?’ Rory asked over his shoulder.
‘Back to the Gryffindor Common Room,’ Albus replied. ‘Rose should be finished in Muggle Studies by now so I’ll get her to give Nieves a Pepper Up potion. I think we should avoid going to Madame Pomfrey for obvious reasons.’
‘So you’d rather she got sick than getting in trouble, Potter?’ said Rory, accusingly.
‘I’m doing this for hers and your benefit, here, Spence,’ Albus said a little wearily.
Rory opened his mouth to retort but I cut in. ‘I am s-still here, guys,’ I croaked and they both fell silent, albeit begrudgingly.
By now we were approaching the castle and Rory had slowed down to stand by Albus’ side. I didn’t like them fighting although it was an excellent source of entertainment, I had to admit. I motioned for Albus to let me down; I wasn’t sure what the reaction of the other students would be if they saw us. I imagined we were quite a sight.
Genevieve, you naughty girl, two soaking wet boys and you all exhausted. What have you been doing?
‘You know, you t-two d-do have wands,’ I reminded them and they looked at me, confused. ‘Wet c-clothes?’ I elaborated, and they each hurriedly dried their clothes, Rory turning to do mine to save my shaking hands the trouble.
I gave a nod of thanks and we continued our way to the Gryffindor tower. I sighed when we reached the staircase and glanced at Rory. He was staring down at the floor as he walked and I could tell guilty thoughts were running through his mind at an incredible speed.
‘D-don’t worry about it, Rory,’ I told him, pecking him lightly on the cheek. ‘You weren’t to kn-know and it’s not your f-fault – I shouldn’t have pr-pr-provoked you. And besides, I’m f-fine.’
His cheeks coloured uncharacteristically a little but he sent me a weak smile nonetheless, which gave me a little comfort.
‘I am so sorry, though Genevieve,’ he said, wrapping his arms around him. ‘I should’ve known. I was being a prat and–’
‘Rory,’ I cut in, flashing him a reassuring smile. ‘I’m f-fine. Really, I am. Anyway you sh-should go back; your fans are p-probably searching the g-grounds for you,’ I said jokingly, the effect slightly ruined by my chattering teeth. You can take the wet out of the clothes but not the cold out of the bones.
‘Fans?’ he said, raising an eyebrow.
I simply laughed and shoved him in the direction of the dungeons. He knew perfectly well to whom I referred. He gave me a mock saluted and walking backwards called out, ‘Oh, and Genevieve? Owl me if you need anything, but I guess I’ll see you around.’
I groaned and turned back to Albus. He was watching Rory go with narrowed eyes.
‘Don’t you st-start, Albus,’ I warned, leaning on him as we ascended the staircase. ‘I can be friends with whoever I ch-choose and you can’t do a th-thing about it.’
He raised an eyebrow at my shaking form. ‘You know I could just leave you here?’
‘No! I won’t say ano-another word, I p-promise.’
He nodded and smiling, as if to say, ‘That’s what I thought,’ helped me up the grand staircase. All seven bloody floors of it.
‘Godric must have been one healthy bloke,’ Albus muttered as we reached the third staircase.
The height difference between us two made the whole thing terribly awkward. Albus being about eight inches taller than me made walking up the stairs quite a feat as he wrapped his arm around my waist and I wrapped mine around his neck. I suspected he’d have more strained muscles than I would by the time we reached the top.
Huffing from the strenuous effort – Albus more than I – we recited the password to the Fat Lady and crawled into the Common Room which was all but empty, save for a peaceful-looking Rose, sat with a large textbook by the fireplace that read The Complete Works of William Shakespeare on the cover. Sweet Merlin, she was a genius. She shut the book with a bang, stroked the cover almost lovingly and looked up sharply when she realised she wasn’t alone.
‘Merlin, Genevieve, what happened to you?’ she cried, hurrying over and tilting up my chin.
‘I, uh – I had a b-bit of an ac-accident,’ I explained lamely.
‘Jesus Christ, that’s one way of looking at it! You look like you’re at death’s bloody door!’
‘Thanks, Rose,’ I muttered. Way to make a girl feel special…
She released me, ignoring my comment, and turned to Albus. ‘You! What did you do to her? I only saw her two hours ago!’
‘Me?’ he cried indignantly. ‘Oh, that’s right; blame the cousin. I didn’t do anything, thank you very much! You might want to go and ask–’
‘Potter!’ I intervened sharply. There really was no reason for the Potter-Weasley family to hate Rory any more than was necessary. Rory was my friend and with the package came my responsibility to defend him, just as I would have done had Rory been talking about Albus
A large sneeze on my part stopped any further comments Albus could have made and after sending a scathing look his way, Rose slipped an arm around my back and helped me climb the staircase. She helped me peel off my clothes from my wet skin once we were in the dorm - I was too exhausted to be modest, now – and once I was dry and in my pyjamas she tucked me into bed and handed me a Pepper Up potion wordlessly, nodding for me to drink it.
‘Thank you, Rose,’ I told her and she smiled down at me. I swallowed the vile-tasting potion, coughing a little from the peppery kick at the back of my throat, and passed it back to Rose who threw the empty vial into the room’s bin with alarming accuracy.
‘It’s not a problem,’ she said, buckling up her box of glass vials, bending down to place it under her bed, she said, ‘I want to be a Healer when I’m older so think of yourself as a practice patient.’
‘Oh, um, great,’ I said, my voice wavering with trepidation. Being someone’s lab rat didn’t sit too well with me for some bizarre reason.
‘Damn,’ I moaned suddenly, an unwelcoming thought popping up in my mind the moment I wanted to be sleeping. ‘Professor Vene’s going to kill me.’
‘No, she won’t,’ Rose said, sitting down on her bed with her legs crossed and I twisted my head to looked at her.
‘I’m not going to die?’
‘Nope,’ she replied swiftly. ‘I’ve sorted it all already.’
She shook her head. ‘I asked Al to tell Professor Vene you were unwell and that I had to look after you – no specific details, of course – and he said he’d copy up the notes for you and I.’ Well, damn, I thought – how did I miss that?’
I dropped my head back against the pillow and sighed, closing my eyes. ‘Thank you, Rose. You didn’t have to help me.’
‘Didn’t have to…?’ she trailed off with a sigh and a shake of her head. ‘Oh, Genevieve you have ever so much to learn.’
THIRD UPDATE: ADDED BEAUTIFUL CHAPTER IMAGE BY MARZIPAN@TDA!
SECOND UPDATE: A/N: I didn’t really change much in this chapter, just gave it a bit of a clean-up for those re-reading who wondered.
This chapter’s quite short but it’s more of a follow-on from the last one than anything – the next one is substantially bigger (which I will start editing now).
Thanks ever so much for reviewing/reading – it’s really appreciated!
I’d love to hear from you!
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