Chapter 14 : Neverland
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I felt entranced by the flames, the orange glow pulling me in as it burnt through the paper of the books.
The flames sizzled, shooting sparks towards me. One caught a piece of bark and ignited it. I stomped it out with my foot and took a step or two back. I didn’t want to cause a big fire, just enough to burn what I could from the make believe. I would change my mind if I didn’t. I need to grow up and get out of Neverland.
I listened to the crackles, the sound of birdcalls. A howl came from the distance and sent a flock of small, black birds shooting from the tops of the trees. If I were a bird, I wouldn’t stay here; I would fly as far away as possible. But I’m not a bird; I’m stuck here, with my feet firmly on the ground.
Closing my eyes, I listened harder. There was too much sound to pick out the little things - centaurs, Thestrals, huffing and howling, footsteps, frequent calls, louder footsteps, tweeting, cracking, sizzling, louder footsteps and finally my name. I didn’t react to it at first, not until I was pulled to the ground by a body bigger than mine.
“Ranny!” Albus’ voice yelled. “Are you stupid?”
A softer tone was humming the sound of a music box, the blonde’s arms around me tightly as he sat me in the gap between his legs. “Are you alright, love?”
Scorpius’ voice brought me back; I opened my eyes with a snap.
It was the urgency of each of their tones. They had been running, panting, searching. They were the footsteps that echoed throughout the woodland.
The fire was out. Albus had shrugged off his robes and dived on to the flames, putting it out and was sorting through the things. He tossed his robes aside to Scorpius, who caught them with one hand and set them down on the forest floor. Still his arms held me tight, pinning me partially to the ground.
Albus was shouting, his voice increasing as he did. It got louder and louder, enough to silence the crickets. His words didn’t make sense; they went in one ear and out of the other. I didn’t comprehend a single word. It was Scorpius that I could hear.
He brushed his fingers through the tips of my hair. “Ranny, what happened? Love, why did you start a fire?”
“I think the better question is what did she burn?” Albus interrupted, tossing the leather bound book towards Scorpius.
The blonde caught it as if it were a god-sent gift and held it to his chest after the rough toss towards him. The corners were charred, but as he opened up the burnt cover and turned the pages, we both realised they were mostly unharmed.
The writing was fine, the photographs untouched. He shook the book and watched as inserts fell on to the wet floor. He took the one closest to him, a picture of Albus and I from our first year. It was taken with the small throw-away camera that Scorpius owned at the time, we would have had to conserve the film that we had back then.
I watched his expression flicker between two emotions, each that I did not recognise.
Albus picked up the golden coin and put it in to his pocket, it was untouched by the fire and not too hot, due to his actions. He sat down opposite the two of us.
Shaking his head he drew his mouth open, and then to a close once more.
“Say something,” I breathed.
“Like what?” Scorpius asked with a snap to his voice. “Ranny, this wasn’t just your stuff to burn. It belongs to us all.”
My gaze moved to the floor and I caught sight of my oversized eyelashes. “I’m sorry.”
With one hand still around me, his other turned the pages in the book. “You could have seriously hurt yourself, you fool! Albus do you remember when I told you that she takes the things you say to heart, and then you said ‘No, she doesn’t’?” His voice raised several octaves as her performed a horrible impression of our friend. “Well, this is a perfect example of what I’m talking about.”
“Ranny, I can’t believe that I said what I did, you should ignore me. You should never listen to me.” Albus rounded, leaning forward eagerly and taking the book from Scorpius. “We’re lucky it didn’t get the book. The damp ground must have stopped the fire from spreading.”
Scorpius only let out a low laugh. “Forget that, it seems that King Arthur’s sword saved the lot!”
He leant forward and reached for the remains of the sword, the long stick having burnt briefly down, but not quite enough to get the rest of the pile of which it stuck out from. Scorpius grabbed it, but released it instantly with an array of colourful language.
“What’s wrong?” I asked quietly.
“Bloody heat,” Scorpius swore. “Fucking hot that sword is.”
Albus stood from the ground. “Well its wood you numpty,” he said “It going be hot.”
He took a step towards the pile of make believe and drew the sword from the lot. He didn’t flinch for a millisecond nor seem to ever consider it. The heat didn’t faze him. Scorpius and I watched as he turned and took a bow.
“In only the manner a true King can manage, just like King Arthur” Scorpius teased. “What about the ring?”
“The gold one? The wedding one? The one we used for Cinderella and the Prince?” Albus asked, spotting it at the bottom and pulling it out. “I remember this, nicked it from Nanna Weasley’s jewellery box over the Christmas Holidays in our first year.”
I turned to him. “You never told me that.”
“That’s because you wouldn’t approve,” he mocked, shaking his head and admiring the gold. “Expensive piece this one. Imagine what a great piece of art would have possibly been lost if we hadn’t found you, Miss Arson.”
“I didn’t try to commit Arson,” I defended. “I just, wanted it all to go away.”
“Wanted?” Scorpius echoed. “As in past tense?”
I shrugged and took a deep breath, pulling away from his a little – but still he didn’t let up. “I just…I know that Al is right. It’s not real, none of it is.”
Scorpius cleared his throat a little too loudly. “Not real? What do you call our heroic little venture there?”
“No, Baker,” Scorpius scolded. “We’re your white knights, aren’t we Al?”
Albus looked up at the two of us through his large, captivating eyes. The book was open in his hands and the sword was tucked under his arm where he sat. He ‘dog eared’ the open page and shut the book.
Nodding, he agreed. “Yeah, love. We’re your white knights. I was telling the truth when I said that we’re all each other’s got.”
It was the late hours of the morning before we realised the time.
Scorpius still sat where he had begun, his arms stretched behind him and his knees bent casually in front. I sat between them, my thighs pulled up to my chest. I hugged my calves with my arms. The bitter cold whipped against my cheeks, but I took no notice. The temperature did nothing to me.
It had not rained, but the ground was still wet. Albus thought that the damp leaves and soil was part of the reason that the fire didn’t spread. I wasn’t stupid, yet my actions preceded the theory. I could have hurt myself, or I could have hurt the school. But in my mind, it still didn’t seem to matter.
“You could have at least tried to burn them in your cauldron,” Albus suggested as he lay down in front of me. He lay to our right, his back sinking in to the wet ground.
I nodded. “I should have really.”
“You shouldn’t have done it at all.” Scorpius interrupted. “We both know that Albus is a toss-pot, you shouldn’t listen to what he says, especially when he is angry.”
“He’s right,” Albus added, sitting up to look me in the eyes. “I am so sorry, love. I didn’t mean to upset you. I just wanted to convince myself.”
My fingers got tangled in the ends of my hair, but I still refused to look at him. “So you do believe in them?”
The sound paused for a moment, only the breaks of twigs in the distance were picked up by my ears. I felt Scorpius’ arm move from behind him and take hold of the ends of my fingers in a supportive grip. He knew what I wanted to hear – heck, maybe he wanted to hear the same thing, but we both knew the answer.
Albus took the golden coin from his pocket and flipped it. Checking the heads or tails as if it were a private joke, he nodded. “I drew the sword didn’t I? I still have your hat, I guess I do still believe.”
The raven haired boy seemed to grin at my words. “For what?”
“For lying,” I said softly. “We all know that you don’t, but thank you for saying that you do. It means a lot.”
“I wasn’t lying,” Albus defended. “I don’t think that I could give you the hat back, not even if you begged for it. I’m not sure whether that’s for the sentimental value or-“
Scorpius chuckled. “Or because you still want to believe.”
“Yeah,” he agreed. “I just … I think to myself, this time next year, I’ll be in training in The Department of Magical Law Enforcement, I’ll be nineteen. I can’t go home and pretend that I’m a King, I can’t call myself Robin.”
“Says who?” Scorpius asked.
He kept a hold of my fingers, but I held back tighter. “Albus, your job will be a fairy tale. To someone you will be a white knight – if not, you’ll always be one to me – when you save a life, or give someone back their stolen belongings, in that moment, you’ll be a King.”
“I’ve never thought of it like that before,” he pondered.
Scorpius and I shared a knowing look. His hair was in disarray, his jumper dirty and his sleeves rolled up past his arms. Yet, he didn’t care.
“Ranny,” he began. “If you can say that to Al, if you will always believe – why did you feel the need to burn the book?”
I bit down on to my bottom lip and resisted the urge to lightly squirm. “I didn’t want to be alone. You two are so geared on wanting to grow up. I don’t want to be left behind.”
“It’s like Peter bloody Pan,” Albus laughed. “Ran, why did you feel that you had to get rid of the book, and the sword?”
“Because I’d keep going back to them,” I admitted quietly. “If they weren’t there, I would have nothing to go back to.”
Scorpius leant his cheek on to the back of my head and laughed. “Oh, Ran. You shouldn’t feel like that. You’re not the only one. I don’t want to grow up either. I tried it and I didn’t like it.”
“If that was our attempt at growing up, it was shit.” Albus announced.
“It didn’t last long,” I added.
“I dated a crew member of the Jolly Roger, Tuck went against religion and Little John fell for the Sherriff.” He summarised. “We’re naff at being adults.”
A soft laugh turned to a breath in my ear. “Then maybe we shouldn’t try.”
“What do you mean?” Albus asked.
I smiled softly. “We should just let it come naturally,” I ran my fingers through the dirt beneath my feet. “We’ll know when we’re ready.”
“So don’t hang up your hat just yet, Ally.” Scorpius added. “There may be another adventure left in you.”
Albus laughed lowly and watched my fingers as they dug in to the dirt. “Another adventure you say, old chap?” he chimed.
Scorpius and I watched as he leapt to his feet and threw aside the battered and burnt wood that was left of the sword. He reached for a stick from the floor and broke another from the branch of a tree. Throwing the stick towards Scorpius and holding the other loosely in his hand, he waited gestured towards the stick, waiting for Scorpius to pick it up.
He stirred behind me. “You can’t be serious?”
“Sirius is nothing but a star and a name,” Albus joked. “My older brothers to be exact - now pick up your sword and fight. I will not duel an enemy unhanded.”
“We haven’t done this in years,” Scorpius reasoned. “The last time we fought like this was third year, I’m-“
“Scared?” I asked.
“Worried I’ll break something,” he rectified pointedly.
Albus snorted. “Yes, because in your old age and all, it’s very likely that you’ll put out a hip.”
“It’s nothing that the magical healers couldn’t fix,” I added with a posh tone to my voice. “Mr Malfoy, I believe that you’ll be fine.”
“Listen to the Damsel, Sir Knight – I Albus, King of The Forest am trying to duel you for her hand.”
“She’s wishes,” Scorpius snorted. I elbowed him low in his gut. He grunted but nevertheless proceeds to stand up and take the stick from the ground.
I laughed at their wet bottoms, the mud that had managed to stick to Albus’ back, his robes still thrown down by the fire. The tiredness that caused their eyes to close didn’t’ affect them in the slightest as Scorpius made the first jab.
He placed one arm behind his back, the other gracing the sword. “Harrate.”
Albus responded almost immediately. He returned the push with a strike of his own, forcing Scorpius to jump back with a speed known only to Chasers. He twisted his body and dodged another blow, turned away from Albus and confusing his opponent.
Within a minute, both had taken hits from the other, Scorpius reacting to a smack to the head and Albus a jab to the gut.
The woodland around the two of them seemed to enjoy reliving the idea of our childhood. It missed the days when the year group would be out in the forest, each with a prop picked up from the floor. A hat for a crown or a sock for a golden glove was a substitute that seemed fitting – no one questioned expense.
A light wind blew as the strikes became less frequent. Leaves fell from the trees and a herd of Centarus passed in the distance. They used to enjoy our games, sometimes joining in for our pleasure and thrill. Our magical world was real.
As I watched the boys duel, having shifted myself away from the gap in the trees where they fought and in between two bushes. I laughed with glee. I caught a falling leaf – a rare and lucky occurrence and folded it, placing it inside the book. If only Scorpius had brought his camera.
Albus pinned Scorpius to the ground, holding the stick near to his throat. “And I can now claim the Princes as my own.”
Scorpius kicked Albus’ feet out from underneath him and jumped up. “I wouldn’t be so sure.”
Tired, the raven haired boy placed his head back in defeat. Scorpius let out a triumphant call and ran to pull me up from the ground. Throwing down his mighty weapon he span me around in a circle before falling to the ground, laughing.
“But what about the Sherriff?” I questioned, sitting on to the floor next to him. “If you want to be with her, I will make no objections. It’s none of my business and it was wrong of me to judge.”
“Thanks love,” he said with a chuckle. He sat up a little, propping himself up on to his elbows. “But it was over before it even began.”
Albus had crawled over, sitting next to Scorpius. “What do you mean?”
“When I had carried her back to the Gryffindors, she wouldn’t let me in with her. All she did was moan about people and say mean things about Ranny. She really was the Sherriff. I’m not going to consider someone who can’t get over themselves. I want a damsel not a whinge.”
“I’m sorry,” I offered.
He laughed and echoed my earlier words. “No you’re not, but thank you for lying.”
The squawks from the birds and the calls from the creatures were drowned out by our laugher. The sun was about to rise, the castle on the verge of awakening. I had lost track of the days, unsure of the time of the week, only of my place in time at this particular moment.
The knit of my jumper was surly ruined, and the tips of my fingers burnt from the fire. But it didn’t matter. As we walked back up to the school, the morning air bit at our skin.
I held the book close to my chest as Albus threw his robe around his shoulders. “We can do it, can’t we?”
“Do what?” Scorpius questioned as he helped me climb the steps from the forest.
“Be both,” Albus said. “It wasn’t until after I kicked your arse I realised that I missed it.”
I took the last step and waited for them to catch up. “We can go between them, we can spend time here and then spend the weekends in Neverland – there’s a balance.”
“You’re right, Ranny,” Scorpius agreed lazily with a yawn, placing his hand on to the small of my back. “We still have a few months before we need to grow up. If you’re set on not wanting to keep the book yourself, you can keep it on the bookshelf in our dorm.”
“I tell you what,” Albus began, pushing us apart and standing in the middle with a tired grin upon his face. “You two are spending the Christmas Holidays with me; we can teach my little niece how to be heroes.”
“Gabrielle isn’t your niece,” Scorpius replied. “She’s Teddy’s kid, and besides she is the girliest girl that I have ever met.”
I placed my hand upon Scorpius’ mouth, silencing him. “I think that would be lovely.”
And for the first time in a long time, we walked back to our own Common Rooms, after having read from the book as just us three.
AN; thank you for reading, and all of the reviews so far! I hope that you enjoyed this chapter! As usual, if you’d like to leave a review, ROBIN if you liked it and HOOK if you didn’t :)
What are your opinions on this chapter; I would love to hear them.
I own nothing; JK owns it all, and then the respective stories mentioned within go to their respective creators.
The next chapter is called ‘Jester’, hopefully you like it!
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He did, eh?