Chapter 15 : Of troubles and horizons
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“Don’t let her win,” A voice in his head said. “If you get expelled, it’s Molly’s victory.”
“And what do you have to say for yourself Mr Potter?” McGonagall demanded, dragging him back into the real world.
“Nothing Professor,” James replied hoarsely, struggling to look her in the eyes.
“Nothing?” McGonagall sounded more surprised than angry. “I’ve known your trouble-making habits for over 5 years Mr Potter, believe me when I say that this isn’t like you.”
James looked up, his eyes meeting hers for the first time. She was concerned, almost caring as she stared at him. James found himself managing a grim smile as Molly’s face fell slightly and she turned to McGonagall.
“Not now Miss Weasley,” McGonagall interrupted. “I’m talking to Mr Potter. What’s wrong James?”
In that instant, James wanted to tell her everything. Hayley, Teddy, Albus, Kassie, all of it. His anger, his pain. But he couldn’t. Not with Molly stood right there. He opened his mouth, then shut it again and shook his head.
“Nothing’s really wrong as such Professor,” James muttered. “It had been a long hard time, my team let me down on the Quidditch pitch and I got too angry too fast. It won’t happen again Professor, I promise.”
McGonagall eyed him up once more then shook her head.
“I don’t believe you Potter,” she sighed. “I don’t know what is going on, but find a better way to deal with it than attacking half the Gryffindor common room. Detention every night until the end of the term, 4 o’clock until 6, so that way you can still hold Quidditch practices. However, I expect that this is the last I will hear about you attacking students, or I’ll make what little would remain of your time at this school a living hell, is that clear? And I expect you to clear up any mess you’ve made in the Tower, the house elves shouldn’t end up being your personal slaves. Oh and I’ll be owling your parents.”
“But Professor,” Molly stammered. “Doesn’t he deserve to be expelled? All his previous…”
“Miss Weasley,” McGonagall cut in. “I have dealt with the situation as I saw fit, so kindly take Mr Potter back to Gryffindor Tower and be tell them to be thankful that I think the damage inflicted on their house is enough that you don’t need any more points taking off Gryffindor, then go to bed. You’re on patrol tomorrow night.”
“Yes Professor,” Molly said, through gritted teeth.
James couldn’t help but feel better as he stood. McGonagall had been sympathetic, even though he had lied to her face. She had let him off lightly and they both knew. Molly was fuming as she followed him out the room and he shot her a smug grin.
“Better luck next time Molls,” James winked, extracting as much pleasure as he could from her infuriated response. Her fierce hair had grown back to a bob length, which suited her well, but it still had a blue tinge to it from the paste. “Maybe one day you might actually get me expelled. But probably not.”
“You laugh now Potter,” Molly growled as she regained her composure, a nasty smile taking over her face. “But you’re in trouble, one step away from expulsion. It’s about the end result, which I’m that much closer to achieving. Besides, your parents aren’t exactly going to be over the moon. I expect a Howler will be on its way.”
“I don’t care Molly,” James snapped, irritation taking over again. “I just want to go to bed, think things over.”
That was a lie; it was the exact opposite of what James wanted to do. He wanted to sleep, for him to be able to wake up for all his troubles to be gone. If only everything was that simple. Everything was falling down around him and the last thing he wanted was time to think about it. Molly at least, had stopped talking, although at least James felt he was venting his anger when they argued. Whilst he despised her, she was at the least a decent stress ball, in the sense that he could fling insults and enjoy watching them land.
They reached Gryffindor Tower and James swore loudly. Waiting for him were Fred, Dom, Chris and Rose, all looking concerned and apprehensive as he entered. His weary attempts to smile failed miserably to convince any of them that he was even remotely okay. Rose was the first to stand and go to him, placing a caring hand on his shoulder. He shrugged her off gently and trudged past the others seated. They all shot him different looks, a range of caring and just plain pissed off. Fred was the only one who followed him as he hurried up the dorm steps, his footsteps the only echoing sound in the tower as he reached the floor that held his bedroom.
“James! Wait!” Fred yelled, as James threw himself on his bed, snatching up a sleeping draught he now regularly kept on his bedside table for nights like tonight, when he knew he wouldn’t be able to sleep, but wanted to escape the world. Fred stepped into the room as James downed the potion and shook his head frustrated as James drew the curtains and lay back, letting the potion do its magic…
James’ eyelids fluttered open. His body felt refreshed and for a moment, his lethargic mind allowed him to enjoy the morning, before the world came crashing back onto him. James was the only one left in the room and as he was still dressed from the night before and couldn’t be arsed to change, he pulled himself to his feet and headed downstairs. A quick look at the time told him breakfast had just started, not that he cared either way. He made his way downstairs towards the Great Hall, grateful that nobody he knew was around. He tried to blend in with a group of younger Hufflepuffs as he entered, but heads turned and the mumblings amongst the Gryffindors were enough to turn most of the people in the hall so they were facing him. James stared at the table, and saw Hayley had sat right by the door he had just entered, a little way away from the others. He made his way over to her. She looked stressed, her hair pulled up into a loose bun and her sparkling eyes dulled, with the little makeup she was wearing not covering the bags under her eyes and pale cheeks.
“Are you alright?” James asked quietly as he pulled in alongside her.
“I’m fine,” Hayley’s voice was a great deal cheerful than her appearance, which made James actually believe her, despite her obvious tiredness. “I’m just worried about you, you arse.”
“Yeah,” James smiled despite himself. “I did kind of overstep the mark last night.”
“You sprinted over the line, then came back to take a shit on the line,” Hayley grimaced. “But I can understand it. How did it go with McGonagall?”
“Detention til the end of term,” James replied, relief clear in his tone. “I got off lightly.”
“You’re telling me,” Hayley breathed a sigh of relief. “Here was me fearing expulsion.”
“Nah,” James winked at her. “I’m bulletproof.”
“You’re a fucking idiot,” Hayley laughed, hugging him tightly. “But it’ll be alright.”
“How can you know that?” James whispered, but before she could answer, there was the screeching of owls, and Hedwig III swooped in, dropping a single folded piece of parchment. James frowned and flipped it open.
James, sorry. Dad.
Hayley’s eyes narrowed as she read it over his shoulder and James let out another foul curse as he spotted the Potter family owl fly in, a red envelope in its beak. It dropped the envelope, which James didn’t bother messing around with and just opened it, fully aware of what was about to happen.
“JAMES SIRIUS POTTER!” Ginny’s voice rang out throughout the Great Hall. “Of all the stupid, nasty, irresponsible things to have done! You could have seriously hurt someone, one of your cousins! Poor Dominique was probably traumatised, bless her!”
Dom shrank in her chair as James winced, but the letter was just getting warmed up.
“Oh and while we’re discussing your behaviour, what the hell do you think you’ve been doing to your brother? Surely if your father can get over the past, then it is not up to you to go out of your way to make things awful for Albus! The poor kid has been owling me you know! Told me you turned him green? And if Hayley’s there, which I’m sure she is, I’m sorry to inform her that it’s unlikely she’ll be seeing you over Christmas, as I’m going to spend the next couple of months devising the best punishment I can possibly think of.”
James groaned, but just as the letter prepared to self-destruct, his mother had one last thing to say.
“Oh and from now on, your father will not be burning anymore school letters. I found him barbequing this one and he told me what you two have been up to. It stops now.”
And with that, that letter imploded, tearing itself apart as James fell back in his seat.
“Well,” Hayley said, gaining back her breath. “That was unpleasant. I suppose it’s fair to say that you’ve got enough on your plate already, without this crap. I’ll have a word with my mum, try and convey the stress that you’ve been under…”
“Don’t bother Hayley!” James said bluntly. “I’m going to have to tell them at some point anyway. Maybe by Christmas it will be so unhide able that I’ll be forced to tell them.”
“James!” Hayley protested as he stood and walked out briskly, trying to stop the tears from falling in front of everyone.
James was AWOL for most the day, turning up to the only two lessons they had that day, but sitting on his own, Hayley leaving him to it after her initial efforts failed. The rest of the day, he was gone, where she did not know. She knew that everything would be okay, but the sooner that Kassie had that abortion, the better for everyone concerned. Hayley, meanwhile, was stuck with the others, who were all being intolerable. Fred and Toni were at that stage where all they did was snog in public, whilst Nicky and Josh were sat in awkward silence, attempting to ignore the other. Hayley was fed up of it, the pair were acting like lovesick puppies and it was going to be noticed sooner or later. But the conversation had been had time and time again; it simply made no difference.
“Would you two get a room?” Hayley ended up snapping and then apologising as Fred and Toni pulled away from each other to shoot her questioning looks. “It’s been a long day. I know the whole point of you guys going public was that you didn’t have to hide away but if you could just go up to Fred’s dorm and keep busy I think we’d all appreciate it.”
“No problem hun,” Toni smiled, patting her shoulder as she headed up, Fred grumbling as he followed. Josh muttered something and then also headed out, practically slamming the Fat Lady’s portrait as he did so.
“What’s wrong with him?” Hayley asked suspiciously, as she pulled Nicky onto a corner sofa.
“We had another row this morning, before breakfast,” Nicky confessed. “We’ve been fighting a lot lately. He suggested that he maybe see someone, to try and convince people that he’s not…being weird, hung up over me. I told him I couldn’t stand seeing him with anyone else and then things escalated from there. He tried to kiss me again but I wouldn’t let him. I told him it was my life that was being destroyed and he said that I was being selfish.”
“Look,” Hayley said gently, hugging her friend gently whilst ensuring nobody was watching. “The simplest solution here is to spend some time apart. I know the two of you have become very close but it’s just creating tension and making things awkward. He doesn’t have to see anyone to convince people he’s hung up on you, there’s nothing wrong with it and for Merlin’s sake would you stop treating this like it is the apocalypse?”
“Thanks Hayls,” Nicky smiled. “It seems like forever since we did this, just you and me.”
“Yeah,” Hayley agreed. “It has. But with everything that has gone on, I think we’ve both struggled to make time for each other. But don’t worry, I’ll try harder. Just look to the horizon.”
“And me,” Nicky smiled. “You know, boys aren’t that different from us. In fact, a lot of the time my thought processes seem to correspond with theirs. I might even keep my hair short afterwards, I think I like it this way. You should cut yours Hayls, it would suit you.”
“Ha!” Hayley laughed, letting her dark hair fall out of its pony and over her left shoulder. “It’s been nearly a year since I let scissors near my hair; I have no intention of changing that any time soon.”
“Suit yourself,” Nicky grinned. “Can you give me a trim; stupid boys need to get their hair cut every couple of months or so to keep it so damn short.”
“I thought you liked it short,” Hayley teased.
“Yeah,” Nicky replied. “But not that short.”
James turned around, knowing the voice a mile away. Fred came running up behind him. James had spent the last couple of days following the incident avoiding most people like the plague. The only person he spent any time at all with was Hayley and even she couldn’t lift him out his depressive moods for long. The only saving grace for James was that there had been no sign of Kassie in the last few days. She had been leaving him alone, maybe just giving him a chance to breathe or maybe she was relenting. Either way, James knew it wouldn’t last long. He moved on swiftly, attempting to get away from Fred, but his cousin was quicker and stepped in front of him. James glared but it was half-hearted and Fred knew it.
“We both know your outburst had nothing to do with Quidditch,” Fred said in a low tone. “And I want you to be honest with me James. Hayley wouldn’t tell me, nobody else seems to know, not even your parents or Teddy. Unless they’re lying too. I don’t really know anymore. But there’s something different about you James. I don’t know what has happened to turn you into who you have become, but I don’t like it. Sorry to be so harsh but I just want to help you. I’ve known you since we were tiny and you’ve never been so affected. What is going on?”
“Fred,” James said quietly. “I know you mean well, but please just drop it.”
The single word made it clear to James that Fred needed some sort of explanation. No longer could James just hide away. He had to tell people and Fred was the best place to start.
“Okay Fred. You deserve the truth,” James admitted. “I am in trouble. But…”
He was interrupted but a coughing from behind him. James turned and Kassie was stood there, looking distinctly rattled and ragged, much like the day on the bench when she had first dropped her bombshell on him.
“James,” she said quietly. “I need to talk to you. Now. Whatever you were going to tell Fred has to wait.”
“What is it Kassie?” James snapped.
She grabbed him and pulled him close so there was no chance of Fred overhearing.
“I had a miscarriage.”
A/N: Well well well, so Kassie did keep her promise after all it seems. Just when it looked as if James was going to crack as well. But is this the end of it? What do you guys think will happen now? Oh and I know I said I probably wouldn't post a chapter but the last one went up stupid quick (thank you validators) so here we are. Enjoy :) HP
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