James pushed the doors open backwards, while balancing a pile of files in his arms. He caught the bottom of his pants with his foot, trying to turn around, and just managed to stay standing. He caught most of the files, but he groaned as one fell to the floor, it's contents scattered around him.
"Here, I've got it." He watched as the young woman picked up his papers and studied them. "The championship game," she nodded appreciatively. "You were so lucky, everyone wanted that story. But you deserved it, James." She placed the file back on top. "Here you go."
"Thanks, Kate," he grinned. "For helping me and for the compliment; not many think so."
Kate laughed as she took some of James' papers and walked with him to his desk. "I know they are saying you only got it because of your mum but don't listen to them, they're just jealous." She placed the files on his desk and looked up. "Speak of the devil," she murmured.
Ginny Potter raced past them, shouting orders. "James, I want that story on my desk in an hour, no exceptions. Kate, you're an investigative journalist, not sports, why are you still here?"
"I was just helping James; he dropped some of his work," she nodded to him and he picked up the file. Ginny nodded once, accepting their answer and carried on walking. "She's extra busy today. Is she always like that?"
James shook his head, sorting his work into the order of what was most important this minute. "Only at work. Where I happen to work. How many people get to say that their mum is their boss? I hate it."
Kate snickered. "Where you expecting special treatment?"
She expected him to smirk and play along or even agree; she didn't expect him to scoff. "No way, I don't even get special treatment at home."
He put the files at the bottom of the pile away in a drawer and sat down, taking the top two in his hands and placing the others to the side. He read through the piece that needed to go to Ginny soon, making sure everything was there, only looking up when he saw Kate sit on his desk instead of leaving. "Why did you become a sports journalist? You had offers to join the best teams but instead you chose to write about them."
James placed his work back down and leaned back. "After my accident last year, I wasn't afraid to get back on a broom, not even close, I still play. But I realized that I prefer it more as a hobby than a job. What happened to me could happen again and, as much as I loved Quidditch, I didn't want to risk putting my parents through that again. I'm safer with my feet on the ground."
"You gave up Quidditch for your parents?"
"Don't tell them, they'd freak about how I shouldn't give up on my dreams for other people, I've already had that speech," James answered. "But I didn't just give it up for them, it just wasn't for me in the end."
Kate sighed but eventually smiled. "OK. Why journalism, though?"
"Easy," he grinned. "I love to write, my essays at school were always the longest. It came naturally to me. After I gave up professional Quidditch, I wondered what else I was good at. I thought of writing and I wondered about how amazing it would be to write about what I love; sports journalism. Now, here I am, a little junior."
"Who gets the best stories," Kate added.
"Because he's good at his job," he finished. "Speaking of jobs, why are you here?"
Kate's jaw dropped in mock horror and she faked a dramatic gasp. "How could you not know?" James shrugged. She became serious again. "A man died in a Quidditch accident last week, I'm writing about it. You're not the only junior with the big stories." She put a hand on his shoulder. "Some are just lucky, eh? I'll be back later for lunch, right?"
"Right," James agreed. "I'll see you then." He sat on his desk, staring at the piece to give to Ginny, not really looking at it, thinking about what she had said.
Some are just lucky. He had been thinking about his accident a lot recently. His dreams of that day didn't make any sense; it was so white. And he had no idea who the woman was; her face was unclear, but something about her scared him. They had started a week ago and he wished they would stop, but they just kept coming, each dream more vivid than the last.
James didn't know what to do.
He knocked on the door once, before a voice shouted for him to enter. "You got the story?"
James rolled his eyes; he had barely entered the room. He said nothing, just placed the piece on Ginny's desk. She looked up and read through it, a small smile formed on her face. By the time she had finished and looked up, a grin had taken it's place. "This is really good, James."
"It would have been here earlier, but I was just double-checking everything."
"I'm glad you did," she said appreciatively. "You can go to lunch with Kate now. Good work."
He smiled. "Thanks... Boss." James walked out of the office hearing his mother laugh. He jogged back to his office and picked up his jacket, putting it on just as Kate came.
"Ready to go?" she asked.
"Yeah," he answered. "Just give me a -" James called out in pain and fell to his knees, clutching his desk for support.
Kate went to his side and grabbed his shoulders. "Are you alright?"
James nodded weakly and put a hand to his left side. "I think I've done something to my ribs. I have no idea how, though."
Kate helped him stand and kept an arm around his waist. "Come on, I'm gonna take you to St Mungo's. Somebody to Ginny where we are, tell her it's OK, we're just checking and not to worry."
James let Kate lead him to the fireplaces and floo to the hospital. Once in the emergency ward, she sat him down and ran to the receptionist. He blocked out her shouting and closed his eyes so he could no longer see her pointing in his direction, trying to ignore everything, including the pain in his side.
"Come on, James, a healer is on their way to see you." She took his hand a led him to a private room. Inside, he walked quickly to the bed and lay down.
"Ow," he murmured as he pressed too deeply when sitting. He lay there in silence for a few minutes until a Healer came.
"Hello again, James. It's been a while," she said.
James turned and smiled. "Hello Hayley, how are you?" He remembered the last time he had seen her; not long after his Quidditch accident, he dislocated his shoulder falling off a ladder. Why his Aunt Hermione wouldn't let him use magic to do it, he didn't know? It would have been easier and he wouldn't have ended up in hospital, because his brother let go. He enjoyed the small amount of satisfaction that came when he saw Albus; he still felt guilty.
"It should be me asking you that, James. What happened?"
"We don't know," Kate answered.
The Healer looked confused. "What do you mean?"
James thought about sitting up, but just the thought made him cringe in pain and he decided against it. He pointed to his side. "We were standing by my desk, about to go to lunch and all of a sudden I felt this crack and pain in my side. We have no idea what caused it."
The Healer walked across and felt James' side, taking into account the look on his face when she pressed into where he was talking about. "It seems you've broken a rib, James. You don't know how?" Both James and Kate shook their head. "Well, not to worry, I can fix it."
She took out her wand and pointed it at James' side, muttering a healing spell. She frowned and did it again. And again. And one more time. "That's odd."
"What? What is it?" James asked, panicking.
"Your body won't let me heal you."
"What?" they both shouted.
"I'm sorry, James," she apologized. "But you're gonna have to let it heal the Muggle way." She told him to take off his shirt and left, coming back minutes later with bandages and a potion. She wrapped the bandages around his waist and held them in place. As soon as he had his top back on, she held up the potion. "This will help with the pain. Drink some every four hours, you only need a tea spoon full. Come back to me if you need more." She left him alone.
James nodded slowly, tempted to lie back down to stop the pain, but thought against it; he'd probably never get back up. Instead, he took some of the pain relieving potion and sighed in relief when it started to work.
"Sorry to say this James, but you have the worst luck."
He turned to Kate. "How do you mean?"
"About this time last year, you almost died in a Quidditch accident," she reminded him. "Now this. It's like Death has a hold of you."
Death. James' dreams came back in full force and he covered his face with his hands. The accident, the room, the woman. The deal.
"Will I remember this?"
"When you're ready."
He remembered. He was ready. He checked the date; he died a year ago tomorrow. The deal was almost up. It was his time to die.
"James, are you OK?"
He moved his hands to see Kate standing in front of him, concern etched on her face. How was she meant to tell her what was happening? How could he tell his best friend he was going to die tomorrow? He couldn't do it. So, he nodded. "Just a little pain. Could you get me some water before we leave?"
"Sure," she whispered. "Stay here and I'll be right back." He watched her leave, then got off the bed and and pulled on his jacket, wincing slightly.
He had opened a door but no way in hell was he going to walk through it.
There was only one place he could go.
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